Speech by H.E. Hon Uhuru Kenyatta at the IBM Research Africa Launch


Good Morning,

Ladies and Gentlemen,


I am pleased to join you this morning at this important occasion. I consider the occasion important because it dovetails very well with my Government’s agenda of transforming Kenya, in line with our Vision 2030 Blueprint, to join the league of middle income countries.


Let me take this early opportunity to most sincerely thank IBM Corporation for choosing Kenya as a location for your 12th Laboratory globally. We do not take this gesture for granted. Your decision to locate this investment in Kenya is, indeed, a vote of confidence in our country as an investment destination of choice.


I also wish to thank the Catholic University of Eastern Africa for providing the land on which this Laboratory is hosted. Your commitment to building strategic partnerships for excellence in research, science and technology is indeed welcome.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Over the last ten years or so, we as a country have made commendable progress towards conquering disease, illiteracy and hunger, which have been the main goals of our development agenda.


We have done well in most health indicators on account of the investment we have undertaken in promoting healthcare; and this has also been the case with respect to education where the number of school-going children joining primary schools increased dramatically following adoption of free primary education policy in 2003.


However, despite this progress challenges still remain that require serious and bold actions by the Government, working, of course, with the private sector which we consider the engine of growth of our economy. Poverty remains a major problem with more than fourty percent of our people living under one US Dollar per day. The problem of unemployment, particularly among our youth is still a major problem.


We therefore need to grow our economy by not less than 10% on average annually for a number of years if we are going to defeat these challenges of poverty, on a lasting basis. This is why my Administration has committed itself to promote more investment in industrialization as key driver of growth, job creation and poverty reduction.


But we are cognisant that to achieve our set development agenda, we have no choice but to harness the Information and Communication Technology, as well as strengthen research and innovation. Indeed, in our Medium Term Strategy, we have listed the creation of ICT hubs and the support of startups in the ICT sector all over the country as a priority in facilitating Kenya's

digital take-off and sustained socio-economic development.


We also intend to invest in and facilitate a digital economy by empowering youth to develop market-ready software to be consumed by national and county governments, and business enterprises.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

My Government fully intends to redeem every pledge made to the people of Kenya. To do so, we will collaborate with stakeholders in all their diversity without taking our eyes off the prize. We anticipate partnerships of every shape and form to accelerate our quest. Some will be bilateral, others multilateral. A few will be temporary, single-issue cooperation, while others will be multidimensional and intense collaborations.


What we have here at the IBM Research Laboratory is an example of the best of the latter category of partnerships. It involves the academy, industry and Government. It brings together PhDs and interns in a space replete with audacious imagination, bold innovation and energetic enterprise.


I am very encouraged by this partnership between the Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology through the ICT Board, the Catholic University of Eastern Africa and the IBM Cooperation.


Indeed, it fits very well with my Government's vision of a partnership for national transformation. That is why it is such a pleasure to be here and witness this initiative first-hand. I am certain that by now you have interacted with what I can only call a groundswell of ICT talent that our young people possess. Let us collaborate in developing that talent, and harness it into generating the sort of win-win dynamic that will transform lives around here.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Because of the symmetrical nature of public-private partnerships, its envisaged activities will yield solutions and systems that will address very specific local problems through commercially viable innovations. The Government will provide the required understanding of local and regional social, political and economic challenges, while IBM Corporation has the resource of more than a century's industrial and innovative experience.


The University will give us the intellectual and academic framework to exploit the knowledge emanating from the partnership. Through applied and exploratory research, people will be empowered to overcome challenges and improve their lives, while entrepreneurs involved will generate incomes and employment. No one can lose in this partnership, and no one should be left behind.


I note that the partnership intends to focus its agenda on Smarter Cities, Medical Healthcare, Education, Water, Agriculture and Transport. These are also areas which Government intends to concentrate its resources and transformative strategies.


Moreover, I note with appreciation the efforts so far invested into developing various appropriate solutions. A traffic estimation and control system, which will form a key component of city planning, is being worked on. For motorists, this effort will culminate in a mobile phone application allowing us to look up road conditions and traffic in real time and suggest alternative routes.


I am also happy to note that the laboratory has analysed historical water demand and supply data and developed a forecasting model for future water use and infrastructure requirements. This will help the City County plan and improve water supply throughout Nairobi.


The laboratory has gone further and developed a solution intended to enhance diagnostic, treatment and referral of cancer cases. This will enhance the models already in use by the Ministry of Health.


There is no one who can doubt that the innovations I have enumerated go to the heart of problems faced by all Kenyans on a daily basis. This is what science, research, technology and innovation should do: meet the people at the point of their greatest need. I remind everyone that this Laboratory was inaugurated in July, 2012. At their present work rate, I expect the research

teams to eliminate quite a number of notorious headaches.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

The vision and achievements of this Laboratory provide the confidence that it will achieve each of their aims within five years. These aims include the generation of intellectual property, raising the national profile of Science and Technology, provide high-end jobs for research scientists and

internships for graduates and students.


It also aims to sustain a meaningful engagement and knowledge sharing with the research and academic communities. Ultimately, all this will bolster Kenya's image as a leading ICT hub in the continent. As you can see, there is excellent reason for identifying this Laboratory as a flagship project of Vision 2030.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are no longer waiting helplessly, hoping that a donor will have pity on us and solve our problems. We are not sitting around, waiting for other people to devise solutions, or hoping that brain-drain will result in some form of 'knowledge remittance'.


And we are not wasting our young people's greatest generational opportunity by ignoring their role in national transformation through entrepreneurship and ICT. Instead, we are generating solutions for our problems locally, attracting talent and incubating innovations. We are also claiming leadership while transforming Kenya and Africa.


I encourage more investors to take advantage of our optimal environment. Kenya's legal and institutional frameworks have been recalibrated to facilitate our ready pool of talent. We are ripe for innovation. Please join the Great Collaboration. I would like to see industry partnering with the many ICT innovation hubs to modernise production and make our economy competitive.


I also encourage the youth to pursue every opportunity in the ICT sector and make their contribution to developing Kenya.


In conclusion, let me once again thank IBM Corporation for choosing Kenya as a location for its 12th Laboratory globally. I assure you of my Government's support in this endeavour, and other similar partnerships.


Let me also reiterate my Government's full commitment to providing a conducive environment for research and innovation in Science and Technology, and support for innovation within the ICT sector. We want as many stakeholders as possible aboard on the historic voyage to national

socio-economic transformation.


Thank You and God Bless You.


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