Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to join you today as we step out on the exciting journey that will culminate in July’s Global Entrepreneurship Summit. Without a doubt, Kenya, and the world, began a new chapter when inspirational ideas found a global platform of this magnitude. An event conceived in the United States of America is now owned and shared by the world.
A mark of that globalisation is President Obama’s visit to the summit. It will be a pleasure and an honour to host him, and to co-chair the summit. The summit could not have come at a more opportune time: right across the world, we see a new, and intense interest in enterprise and innovation – and their effects on emerging economies, such as our own.
Kenya’s interest in innovation and entrepreneurship is not new. Ngugi wa Thiong’o reminded me yesterday of a young man called Gacamba.
Years ago, he saw a plane, and became passionately interested in flying. When he returned home, he patiently built his own plane, which flew for a short distance, before crashing. But that Kenyan ingenuity was not lent the support it deserved, and little more was heard from him.
That episode reminds us of two facts we must keep well in mind: that Kenya has ingenuity and innovation to spare, and that we have not always been good at supporting our innovators and entrepreneurs.
These successes have whetted our appetite. There is no reason why Kenya cannot lead the region, and the continent in innovation and entrepreneurship. Our people are no less diligent, no less innovative, than any other. What has not always been present is the structure to let them express their gifts to the full. It is my Government’s aim to change that, and quickly.
Already, we see encouraging progress. Our ease of doing-business ranking is improving. Our policy and legal framework is more attuned to the needs of enterprise and innovation.
We stand ready to make whatever changes are necessary to meet those needs. We have funds to support new enterprises, especially those owned or run by the youth, women or persons living with disability. Our intellectual property regime balances the demands of innovators and the protection of original works.
Business registration, information and regulation are faster, simpler and cheaper than at any time in the history of the Republic. Kenya is ready for entrepreneurs and innovators. They should pitch camp in large numbers.
But let us be frank. Much more could be done. We start with the private sector. Last month, in a preamble to his visit to Kenya for the summit, President Obama asked established businesses to do more in support of young entrepreneurs and innovators.
I make the same call to you. Established enterprises in Kenya have accumulated enormous experience, skill and capital. It is time, in my view, to share that experience, skill and capital with our younger innovators.
The benefits are obvious – larger markets; greater productivity; the building and strengthening of Kenyan, and African institutions. Indeed, the benefits are so obvious that I wonder why we have not already done this on a substantial scale.
I hope, with the help, advice and support of the older entrepreneurs here present, to present a plan for wide cooperation of this kind. The second point is at once more obvious, and harder to achieve. This is the age of globalisation.
We now know that what animates a teenager in Nepal is just the same aspiration that keeps a youngster in South Africa awake at night. We know that innovators and entrepreneurs can formulate and implement brilliant ideas in Bangalore as well as in Nairobi, in Dublin as well as in Dakar.
We have learnt that entrepreneurship is a universal global language in which everyone, everywhere, can work successfully. What we need to do is to live that creed.
It is time to be more open; to make it easier for men and women from different land, of different religions, or different tongues to come here and work with us.
That openness comes with risks, of course. We know that not everyone in the world wishes us well, and that we face enemies dedicated to our division and destruction. But there is no going back. Tolerance pays, because the ideas and practices that change the world are born in the commerce and interchange of different peoples.
That is why Kenya leads the East African integration agenda; that is why we are dedicated to maintaining our old international partnership, while forging new ones; and that is why we remain an outward-facing economy. The future belongs to the tolerant, and to those willing to engage across lines of race, religion, tribe or class.
That is why I especially welcome today’s Entrepreneurship Summit back to Africa where it was inaugurated.
In its rounds about our globe, the Summit has grown and tremendously enhanced its capacity to influence greater positive outcomes and touch more lives. The honour of hosting this year’s Summit is an immense credit to Kenya.
It is a deserved recognition of our endeavours to foster entrepreneurship for socioeconomic transformation and the empowerment of our people.
Our role as an economic leader in this region is tied to our consistent endeavour to impart the spirit of enterprise to our women, youth, the traditionally marginalised and persons with disability. Without significant competitive advantages in the form of valuable natural resources, our strong entrepreneurial spirit has stood our country in good stead and enabled us fight it out in the big leagues continentally and globally. We are therefore grateful for the opportunity to host this Summit and appreciate the recognition that comes with it.
It is no surprise then, that the best entrepreneurs in this world are paying attention to what is going on here. It is appropriate that governments the world over are keenly following the proceedings of the Global Entrepreneurship Summit. The most important discourses and interactions of our time happen in gatherings like this. Boardrooms and Parliaments are now the finishing points of great ideas.
My Government is focused on using innovation and entrepreneurship to power economic growth and the expansion of opportunities. We are a vibrant nation seeking to thrive in a continent marching resolutely forward in a fast-evolving global context. Let us go out and innovate.
Thank you and God Bless you.