Remarks by U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Robert F. Godec: Kenya AGOA Summit

Cabinet Secretary Adan Mohamed, other distinguished guests. Waheshima, Mabibi na mbwana, Hamjambo. Habari zenu?

Thank you Cabinet Secretary to you and your team for hosting this summit. I am honored to be here as we promote the African Growth and Opportunity Act. It is great to see so many business leaders. I hope this event will help Kenyans to take greater advantage of the opportunities that AGOA provides.

Since AGOA went into effect in 2001, it has been the cornerstone of the US’ support for greater trade and investment in Africa. The recent 10-year extension of AGOA sends a strong signal that the United States is deeply committed to expanding our trade relationship with Africa. AGOA reinforces our commitment to help Africa increase economic growth, create jobs, and expand prosperity.

AGOA is helping countries across Africa to diversify their economies and expand opportunities. It builds on existing US trade programs by offering duty-free benefits to African countries for over 7000 types of products, including apparel and footwear, agricultural products, chemicals, steel, and many others. AGOA has greatly increased trade between the United States and Africa. Exports to the United States under AGOA reached $25.5 billion in 2014. And since AGOA began in 2001, non-oil exports from the region have grown four-fold. Most importantly, AGOA-related investment has created over 300,000 jobs in sub-Saharan Africa. These jobs underpin economic development, improved livelihoods, and strengthen communities across Africa.

Here in Kenya, I am pleased that AGOA is helping to contribute to Kenya’s economic success. As President Obama said during the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in July, “Africa is on the move… People are being lifted out of poverty… The middle class is growing… And that creates incredible opportunities for Africans and for the world… And…Kenya is leading the way.”

Kenya is a hub of innovation and entrepreneurship, and is poised to become an industrial hub in Africa. At the AGOA Forum in Gabon last August, Kenya was highlighted as one of the countries in Africa leading the way in taking advantage of AGOA. In 2013 alone, Kenya had over $300 million in exports to the United States under AGOA. AGOA exports from Kenya have created tens of thousands of jobs, particularly in apparel manufacturing. And AGOA has the potential to create thousands more. Recently, major apparel companies have committed to significantly increase their buying from Kenya, creating thousands of additional jobs. AGOA is bringing investment – and jobs – to Kenya.

Supporting AGOA, and working to boost trade and investment in East Africa, is our Trade Africa Initiative, which President Obama announced in 2013. One of Trade Africa’s central goals is to increase AGOA exports from East Africa by 40 percent and bring $100 million in investments to East Africa. Trade Africa has established the East Africa Trade and Investment Hub right here in Nairobi, which provides information and support to promote deeper regional integration, increase agricultural competitiveness, and boost trade with the United States. In 2012, the Hub assisted the Kenyan National Committee on AGOA to develop a National AGOA Strategy to help the government and companies take the steps needed to seize the opportunity of AGOA. Today, the Hub helps Kenyan companies improve their products, get American market information, and connect with American buyers. This initiative is expected to create at least 10,000 jobs in the region over the next five years.

Despite these successes, the work is not yet done. Bluntly, Kenya, and the rest of Africa, has yet to take full advantage of AGOA. To do so, we all need to get out the word about AGOA far and wide. AGOA provides an opportunity, but to take advantage of it, companies first must know about it. And then they must act. They must invest in production, find partners, and make sales.

To take full advantage of AGOA, Kenya also needs to continue to improve governance and its business climate. Strong institutions and the rule of law provide the foundation for a growing economy. And, to reach its goals, Kenya must end corruption. As I have said many times, corruption is undermining Kenya’s future. It must end. It is destroying jobs and causing investors to take their money elsewhere. We are committed to working with Kenya to tackle corruption in line with the Joint Commitment announced by President Obama and President Kenyatta in July. But to succeed in ending this scourge, Kenya – its leaders and its citizens must make a sustained effort to strengthen governance, accountability, and transparency. Only Kenyans, working together, can end corruption. We will help, but Kenyans must lead. In addition to addressing corruption, the government must also work to build infrastructure, equip Kenyans with the skills for today’s workplace, simplify regulations, and reduce the obstacles to doing business.

While Kenya does face challenges, I am optimistic this great country will confront them and succeed. I am encouraged because of the intelligence and drive of the Kenyan people. And, I am encouraged by the remarkable business leaders here today.

At the AGOA Forum in Gabon earlier this year, Ambassador Froman, the United States’ lead trade negotiator, challenged participants to “stretch our thinking and our ambitions to match [AGOA’s] historic extension. We need to make sure AGOA’s potential is fully explored and its benefits fully utilized.”

I urge all of you here today to strive to take advantage of the opportunities AGOA offers. The United States is committed to working with you as you do. A more prosperous Kenya – a more prosperous Africa – is in everyone’s interest. I know Kenyans can achieve prosperity; you can achieve the goals you set for yourselves in Vision 2030. As you build the future you want, the United States will be here as a partner and friend. Together, we will build a better future for both our countries.

Pamoja tusonge mbele.

Asanteni sana.