President Uhuru Kenyatta PHOTO:COURTESY
President Kenyatta: I am very proud to showcase some of the work that my government has done in the first four years of my term.
As your President, it is my primary duty to provide the environment necessary for each one of you to fulfill your full potential, and to improve your own livelihood, as well as that of your community, and that of our nation.
Together, we have achieved much that will benefit many, and in a very short time.
Question: What was your vision going into 2013 elections? What did you want to achieve for the country?
President Kenyatta: To understand where you are, and to understand where you are going, you must know where you’ve come from; then you are able to better visualize where you want to be. And I think we’ve come a long way.
Our forefathers came together with the singular aim of having a free, socially inclusive society where our people could govern themselves, and make a future for themselves. They achieved our independence for us.
Once we got that independence, somehow we did not internalize that independence as a Kenyan independence; we internalised it as an ethnic independence. So we started to say ‘what about the prosperity of my community?’, ‘what about the jobs of my community?’ We lost the nationalist spirit that actually won us that independence — independence was not won by any singular community, it was won by people coming together and saying we want to govern ourselves; we want a future for ourselves.
I believe that the politics that took place after the first 10 or so years of our independence resulted in a situation where, rather than co-exist as Kenyans, we co-existed as ethnic communities. We saw the worst of that in 2007/2008. It is an episode of our national history that is still fresh in our minds.
As a result of that, some of us who were accused of fanning that incitement felt very, very, very strongly, and thought very deeply. We asked: ‘how could our country — that we all love so much, and that we all wanted so much for — end up in this particular situation?’ Then, working with other individuals, we agreed: ‘look, it is time for us to change the Kenyan narrative’.
Question: So, what was your resolve?
President Kenyatta: Our rallying call in 2013, as many in Kenya will remember, was the fact that regardless of whether we won or lost, we would ensure that we had a country that would not end up in the kind of chaos that we saw in 2007/08, and that no Kenyan would lose their life for who they were.
We wanted a country that celebrates our diversity and that works together with the understanding that the issues that confront us don’t confront us because of our ethnicity, but are common to all of us as Kenyans. The only way to solve them is to solve them together. And that was basically the platform on which we launched our campaign in 2013. And, thank God, Kenyans gave us an opportunity to lead this country.
For the 4 years that we have led this nation, we have focused on answering a single question: how do we coalesce this society of 43 communities into one society? We recognised that our new constitution gave us an opportunity to achieve this, through the devolved governments. We made them work, and we were able to reach out and get development into every corner of this country.
We ensured that our government was as inclusive as the constitution allowed us to be, because it was the first time, for example, that we were limited in the number of Cabinet Secretaries we could appoint. I also think it gave us the opportunity to pick the best that we could from our country, because so long as you are limited, you have to pick the best.
As the national government, our key priority then became, first and foremost, to ensure that in the shortest possible time we got devolution to work so that every single Kenyan, irrespective of what part of the country they came from, could feel the benefits of being a Kenyan.
Today in Mandera, for the first time ever in the history of this country, you can get a caesarean section done in the hospitals — which have been revamped. We ensured that the programmes we initiated for free maternal healthcare enable every single mother to give birth in a safe environment.
We also focused on education, recognising that as long as every single Kenyan is able to get proper education, we are beginning to equalise our society.
Many areas got — for the first time — decent infrastructure that could attract industries. (And we have to attract investment outside the main cities: Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, and Eldoret)
We went on a massive programme of building roads, electricity expansion, trying to increase dams in order to get water access, so that a person living in Wajir would have the same benefits as a person living in Nairobi; so that an industry would be attracted to Garissa — because now you are connected to the main grid — just as it would be attracted to Mombasa. We recognised that if we focused ourselves on these, it would ultimately give us an opportunity to achieve what every single Kenyan needed: opportunity.
We are not there yet, but we have started that journey. We have started the process. I believe strongly that if we are allowed to continue with the kind of development we have made so far, then, in a very few years to come, we will have a singular society that looks at issues differently: not from where we come from, but from whom we are as Kenyans.
We will begin to deal with the challenges that face every single Kenyan, the challenges of health, the challenges of education, the challenges of job creation; and once we do that, we then can see ourselves as Kenyans. And once we see ourselves as Kenyans, because we have a government that is dealing with us as Kenyans, we will look to a future where we work together for mutual prosperity and for mutual happiness.
Question: Are you making progress?
President Kenyatta: Well, you also ask yourself where and how you want to get to where you are going. I keep on telling Kenyans: let us have patience; let us focus ourselves on doing things that ought to be done, because if things had been done in years past, we wouldn’t be complaining today.
Question: Some have chided you as a tourist President. How have Kenyans benefitted from your travels beyond our borders?
President Kenyatta: Countries are like people: you cannot make make progress on your own. Kenya must work in very close corroboration and cohesion with its neighbours and others in the international community. That is why we have made foreign policy central to our agenda.
We need to ensure that we are on good terms, and have great trading partnerships, with others. We would not attract the kind of investment that we are attracting if we were only talking to 42 million people; we need to be able to talk of a region of 300 or 400 million, because it is that economy of scale that will allow us to attract the kind of investment that we need, in order to create the jobs that our people need.
So long as you continue to think inward, you will only slow your quest to achieve your objectives. And that is why my administration has been very keen to improve linkages between Kenya and other nations.
Within our region we have been very focused on trying to deepen integration. We have worked very hard, and now we have a single network area for Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda, and we are trying to bring on board Burundi, Tanzania and South Sudan. We now have a single tourist visa, so that visitors coming to Kenya can use the same visa to go to Uganda and Rwanda.
We have worked on our ability to travel within our region using just our identity cards, which means that it is easier for East African citizens to move across and trade. In 4 years, we have reduced the time it takes for goods to move from Mombasa to Kampala to Kigali from 21 to 4 days.
All this is meant to improve and ease our ability to do business. Our interactions with people outside our region are also aimed at ensuring that we have the ability to trade with those countries and again create job opportunities for our people.
That’s not all. My recent visit to India resulted in us being able to get a cancer hospital. Cancer is a catastrophe for many families in our country, who are spending millions to move their loved ones to India, to the UK, to South Africa for treatment. As a result of that visit, we shall have, in a very short period of time, our own cancer hospital right here at Kenyatta National Hospital, which will greatly reduce the cost and expense that Kenyans have to bear.
The bottom line is to create, and to open new doors for the citizens in Kenya, so that our people can create prosperity. I want to go back to what I started with from the very beginning: if we look at ourselves as ‘our community’, ‘my tribe’, we shall never succeed.
Equally, if we think of our country, and if we open ourselves to the world, then we will achieve our own internal agenda, our own objectives as individual Kenyans. That is why I said, when I hosted the new Somali President, that Somalia’s peace, security and stability and Kenya’s peace, security and stability are tied at the hip. We need each other in order for us to have shared prosperity. That is the spirit that drives my administration in its engagement with foreign governments.
Question: We have seen quite a number of brands — Volkswagen, Peugeot — setting up shop here. What’s the driver?
President Kenyatta: We have made the necessary investments — in infrastructure, in building skills, in technology — and become an attractive investment destination. We are now marketing what we have aggressively with our foreign trips.
Once you have a conducive environment for international business, you can’t just sit at home and think that everybody will see it: you have to sell the infrastructure; you have to sell the ‘ease of doing businesses; you have to expose what is available in Kenya. We need to show the world that Kenya is an attractive and safe destination for its investments.
So all these things are linked: when you see us moving out and rolling out Huduma Centres, when you see us out there rolling out e-Government, when you see us visiting other countries, all this is part of our attempt to make Kenya an attractive destination.
There’s a lot of new investment. Peugeot for example, is looking at Machakos as a place they want to make their investments; Tata is looking at Machakos as a place they want to make their investments. Why? Because they can see that we are keen on opening up the dual-carriage road linking Nairobi to Athi River, all the way to the Machakos turnoff.
They can see our investments in electricity. They can see our investments in roads. Previously, they wouldn’t have looked at Machakos as an investment destination. This is what we are trying to do.
With Huduma, government services that were once available only in Nairobi are now available in almost every corner of the country. Our investments in fibre-optic cable also mean that a person a person in Migori has the same capacity to access the Internet as a person living in Nairobi. This is what we are selling out there.
We are also investing in security to ensure that Kenyans are safe, and that our tourism and services sector is able to get back on its feet. We are dealing with enemies who want to create the image that Kenya is not safe; they want it believed that Kenya is not secure.
Question: Your vision of education, and especially technical training. Why?
President Kenyatta: We need to be able to create a nation of hope. Let’s recall where were we before all this. We were a country able to ensure that every primary-school child was able to go from Standard 1 to Standard 8, and complete his or her education.
But then, after Standard 8, what happens? I want us all to remember the usual January story: how many children have been accepted to secondary schools? It is always a major story in Kenya: every year, we hear that some have gone to secondary school, and a great many have been left out. So we come in and say: ‘OK, look: these kids who now have been left without hope of entering secondary school — first and foremost these are kids who are 11, 10, 12 — what are we gonna do with them? They are still kids’.
Within the next two years, we want all our children to automatically transit to secondary school. We have enough space — we have the places.
This year alone we are spending KSh 5 billion to improve school infrastructure, to ensure that we have adequate places for all our children so that, at the end of the day, every child will be able to go from Standard 1 all the way to Form Four.
Now, from Form Four, we are now focusing ourselves on the TVETS to ensure that we have adequate technical training institutes across the country. Because there will be those who will transit to university, but there will also be this group that will not make it to university. We are saying that life does not end because you did not go to university.
After Form Four, you have kids of 17 or 18 who are not going to university. They can be trained in a skill: plumbers, technicians, carpenters, bricklayers; all these are noble professions that people can engage in, and that bring prosperity to you as an individual. We also want to train our kids to be able to use tractors and modern agricultural equipment — we, and they, need to do more in agriculture.
Question: What has driven your digital focus?
President Kenyatta: Technology is linked to investment. With digitisation, we are making it easier for people to do business, we are reducing the time it takes to register companies, the time it takes to get permits, and the time it takes to register your tax returns.
We are improving the business environment; and we are also cutting corruption. Once you digitise, as we have our lands registry, you don’t have to have human contact: you just get on to the Internet and do your search; you are not at the mercy of any individual.
Now, once we get our e-procurement up and running properly, we will make the entire process of business tendering completely transparent, even on major contracts. Every single step of procurement will be transparent, available and open to everybody. That cuts out corruption, and again ultimately helps us improve our business environment.
Incidentally, one of the key issues with which we have a major problem is the length and period of time it takes for court cases to be adjudicated. You have even heard me complain about it. But once we digitise our court recordings, we will improve the speed with which judgements, both in criminal and civil cases, are done. More importantly, through digitisation we are also creating opportunities for our young people.
For example, once we are through with the digitization of our judicial process, the practice of a judge writing in longhand will be over: a young man or woman will transcribe the recording; in the morning, the judge has a complete record of the previous day’s proceedings. A job has been created for a young man or woman, and we have eased the work of the judge.
Question: Let us turn to upcoming elections. Elections are about the future. What should Kenyans look forward to should they give you a final five-year term as their President?
President Kenyatta: One is the continued commitment to the vision to create hope and opportunity for the majority in this country — our young people. The investments we are making today are not for our generation; they are for that future generation that is currently hungry, eager and wants jobs.
I know there is impatience. We all want to see the fruits of our investment right away. But good investments need time to mature. We know that Kenyans have not yet felt the full impact of our investments, but we ask them to give us an opportunity to continue with what we are doing, so that in time, they will feel the full impact.
It is easy to turn around and say ‘ooh, Kenyans have yet to feel it’, but, like I said, ask any farmer — you have to sow in order to reap. And we are investing in order for Kenyans to reap. We ask Kenyans to give us an opportunity to continue, so that we can unify our country, so that we can secure our country, and so that we can make the investments necessary to bring prosperity and jobs for our people.