[9th December 2010]

AMBASSADOR’S GREETINGS ON THE 47TH ANNIVERSARY OF INDEPENDENCE

December 12, marks the Independence Day of the Republic of Kenya.On this momentous occasion in the history of the Republic of Kenya, I wish to convey, on behalf of the government and people of Kenya, our warm and gracious greetings to their Majesties Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko as well as the Government and friendly people of Japan. We share with you our joy on this auspicious occasion as we reflect on the warm and mutually beneficial cooperation that characterizes the ties between Kenya and Japan. I also wish to take this opportunity to thank you all for your steadfast support and dedication in the promotion of our fraternal ties.

Indeed, since our independence 47 years ago, the people of Japan have stood side by side with their Kenyan brethren in their development challenges and aspirations. Japan continues to be our leading development partner. We are indeed proud for the distinguished honour the Japanese have bestowed on us as a model of its development cooperation with Africa.

The last one year has witnessed added impetus in our relations. In February, the Right Honourable Prime Minister of the Republic of Kenya led a delegation of senior Government and business executives for a four-day official visit to Japan. This was followed in March by the visit to Kenya by the Crown Prince His Imperial Highness Naruhito. Within a span of nine months six Ministers have made official visits to Japan. These high level exchanges have served to further illustrate the strong bonds of friendship existing between our two countries.

As the gateway and hub for East and Central Africa, Kenya serves as the operational centre for Japan’s diplomatic and commercial engagements within the region. Today, Nairobi hosts one of the largest Japanese communities in Africa and is the regional headquarters for all of Japan’s major government agencies as well as its leading trading houses. Japan’s development cooperation with Kenya which dates back to 1964 is so extensive and traverses all areas of human endeavour. The cumulative total to date is in excess of Yen 420 billion and comes in the form of Grant Aid, Loan Aid and Technical Cooperation. Currently, our bilateral cooperation focuses on five (5) key areas namely: Economic Infrastructure, Agriculture, Human Resource Development, Health and Environment.

On economic infrastructure, our partnership recognizes the Government’s priorities spelt out in Kenya’s development blueprint, Vision 2030. The development strategy aims at transforming Kenya into a middle income country with a high quality of life within the next 20 years. Consequently, the government has invested heavily in the development of infrastructure especially improvement of the road network, electricity generation and distribution and telecommunication network. We are also modernizing our airports and sea ports. These investments are intended to make our country globally competitive as well as a regional hub for investment, services and commerce. Japan’s recent support in this field has targeted energy generation, port expansion and technical assistance for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) among others.

In agriculture, Japan has been augmenting Kenya’s efforts to improve agricultural productivity and food security which are fundamental in attaining MDG I. It is noted the Nairobi hosts the secretariat of The Coalition for African Rice Development (CARD) initiative which was launched in 2008 with the aim of doubling rice production in Africa within 10 years. Under the CARD initiative, Mwea, one of the major irrigation schemes in the country has greatly been expanded. In addition, Japan has been one of the most active partners in responding to the perennial drought and food crisis in Kenya and the region in general.

Over the years, Japan has been instrumental in Kenya’s Human Resource Development. The Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology was established and supported by Japan for many years. More than 6,000 Kenyans have been trained in various fields through JICA programmes. The number of Kenyan students in Japanese institutions of higher learning is also significant. Currently, Japan is funding projects such as the Strengthening of Mathematics and Science in Secondary Education (SMASSE) and dispatching experts to Kenya among other undertakings.
Kenya and Japan share a common vision in environmental conservation for posterity. Japan is currently supporting projects on improvement of urban environmental management, improvement of water supply systems, community-based flood disaster management, and adaptation to climate change among others. We are also grateful to Japan for her sustained support for the strengthening of UN Office in Nairobi and the process of the International Environmental Governance (IEG), of which Kenya is a Co-Chair.

I take this opportunity to congratulate the Government of Japan for successful hosting of the just concluded Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP 10). The adoption of the Nagoya Protocol should serve to spur negotiations between member states aimed at ensuring genuine cooperation in accessing genetic resources and the benefits arising there from.

In the sector of health and medical services, Japan’s funding in Kenya focuses on the two priority programs of HIV/AIDS prevention and health system improvement which play an important role and contribution towards our efforts to achieve the millennium development goals on health.

The recent past has witnessed a significant growth in the volume of trade between the two countries, registering close to Khs 50 billion in 2009. The balance of trade however, is still heavily tilted in favour of Japan. We would want to see a more exponential growth pattern. In this regards, prospects exist for bridging the gap by way of increasing imports into Japan through diversification of trade items, entering into joint ventures and direct investments. Indeed, Foreign Direct Investment is one of the avenues the Kenya government is encouraging to boost development and attain vision 2030. I wish to assure you that Kenya is open and safe for investment.

Investment opportunities exist in the sectors of agriculture, tourism, energy, Infrastructure, information and communication technology finance among other. We would therefore wish to see more interaction between business fraternities in both our countries with Japan playing a leading role. I therefore take this opportunity to invite prospective business entrepreneurs to come to Kenya and explore the wide ranging opportunities available.

Prospective businessmen and investors are also welcome to take advantage of opportunities in the wider East African Community with a market of over 126 million in the 5 partner states. Readers will be glad to know that the integration process in the community is gathering pace. Since 2005, the Customs Union is effectively working whilst the Common Market Protocol became operational in July this year. Opportunities range from manufacturing, energy, constructional and infrastructural development, tourism development to financial services and mining.

For many, the name “Kenya” has always been synonymous with wildlife. We are the home of the “Safari” famous “Big Five” (Lion, Leopard Elephant, Rhino, and Buffalo) and it is true that this is the best place in the entire continent to see these Five magnificent species and numerous more in their natural habitats. But Kenya has even more to offer. We have an incredible range of wild habitats, each one with its own unique range of species. Open savannah, deep forest, soda and freshwater lakes, alpine meadows, coral reefs, caves, beaches, river deltas and even more.

On average we receive 12,000 Japanese visitors per annum. In order to have effective and rapid market penetration towards increasing tourist arrival and spending in Kenya in line with government priorities in the vision 2030, the government has now contracted the services of a Japanese Marketing and Development Representative (MDR) - AVIAREPS Marketing garden. In this respect I call upon our esteemed readers to consider Kenya as an ideal destination for all kinds of travel, including Business and Conference tourism.

I would like to take this opportunity to convey our gratitude to all our Japanese friends who helped organize and joined the exhibitions of Kenyan products this year. Kenya participated in three major exhibitions, the Speciality Coffee Association of Japan (SCAJ) World Speciality Coffee Conference and Exhibition 2010 which took place in September; the Japan Association of Travel Agents (JATA) also in September and lastly, the International Flower Exhibition (IFEX) which saw seven companies participate. The exhibitions offered opportunities for Kenya not only to show case her products but a useful platform for match-making with the Japanese business community.

It is important to mention the Tokyo International Conference for African Development (TICAD) and specifically TICAD IV which aims to support African growth and Development by doubling ODA to Africa by 2012. Kenya’s accrued benefits under the TICAD process clearly demonstrate its value as an excellent example of genuine cooperation based on mutual trust and understanding of all involved parties.

During the year, we witnessed a major milestone event - the promulgation of a new Constitution of the Republic of Kenya on August 27, 2010 ushering in “The re-birth of a nation or the inception of a Second Republic”. The new constitution is the product of a Kenyan-driven process and provides us with a framework for shared economic prosperity, social inclusion and political stability. It creates the framework for an enabling environment for transforming our nation. Institutions of governance have been created with the necessary checks and balances to ensure that there is no abuse of power and human rights. The institutions will ensure that those in authority are accountable to the Kenyan people and that the public service is efficient and responsive to the needs of the population.

For the first time in our country's history, we shall have a truly devolved government where substantial resources will be distributed equitably among the 47 counties. These resources will be managed by the county governments. This will bring government nearer to our communities and empower the citizens. The new constitution also provides a legal framework for gender equality and women empowerment.

The constitution is of paramount importance to the socio-economic and political development of Kenya, in particular, the delivery of our development Blueprint, Vision 2030. The requisite bills needed to implement the constitution are being drafted for parliament approval. The relevant commissions to oversee the implementation on the document are also in the process of being formed. With the support of all our friends and partners we are confident that we shall fully implement the New Constitution.

Let me also take this opportunity to salute Kenyan’s in Japan for their patriotism and positive contribution they are giving in the enhancement of our bilateral cooperation. Special mention goes to our athletes who have over the years continued to shine in major meets in Japan replicating the dominance we have maintained at the global stage. They are making us proud as a country of winners.

Finally I wish to thank all those who have sent to us messages of goodwill. Once again, our sincere gratitude to all our friends for the usual support and cooperation. We take this opportunity to wish our readers a happy festive season, good health and prosperity in the New Year.

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