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September 26, 2018

GES Summit Should Declare Kenya Open for Business

Briefing: US Ambassador Robert F. Godec announces the coming to Kenya of US President Barack Obama for the Global Entrepreneurship Summit to be held in Nairobi later this month. With him are Manoah Esipisu, Secretary of Communication, State House Spokesperson and Head of the Presidential Strategic Communication Unit, and Kenya’s ambassador to the US, Robinson Njeru Githae, at State House, Nairobi in April. Inset, President Obama.
Briefing: US Ambassador Robert F. Godec announces the coming to Kenya of US President Barack Obama for the Global Entrepreneurship Summit to be held in Nairobi later this month. With him are Manoah Esipisu, Secretary of Communication, State House Spokesperson and Head of the Presidential Strategic Communication Unit, and Kenya’s ambassador to the US, Robinson Njeru Githae, at State House, Nairobi in April. Inset, President Obama.

Yes, I have been missing for a while. No, I haven’t been ill or anything like that. I have just been taking stock. Do I add value by submitting these 800 words every week? Am I getting through? Do I matter? Could I be doing this better, differently? There’s a lot on my mind. I wonder whether the space we as media occupy in your life matters anymore and if it doesn’t, how can we make it matter. There’s still a lot of buzzing in my mind but slowly the clouds are clearing.

There are things I must shift fundamentally and soon. However, duty calls and duty overrides everything including writer’s block.

Speaking to a friend on the phone last week about the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, I realised that most Kenyans and I’m talking about business churning smart as a button Kenyans have no idea what’s happening in 10 days from now. In fact it’s already happening. Two months ago, in one of my YouTube recordings, I declared “The World Is Coming to Kenya - Are We Ready?” I actually thought I was stating the obvious with a little garnishing of my unique view of the same. Low and behold, two months later we still don’t get it.Let me tell you what the GES is not. It’s not Obama’s homecoming — he has been here several times.

It’s not a shags visit for his kids. It’s not a Luo festival (snap out of it). It’s not a chance for homosexual rights to be entrenched (get a grip).

It’s not some United States funfair or show of might. When they want to do that they attack oil rich nations.

This is the World Cup of investment opportunities.

The Olympics of money. A potential billion dollars multiplied to the nth degree is coming through our airports in the next few days — the first lot landed on Friday and left on Sunday morning while we were busy attacking legit business, trying to shut Keroche down for nothing at all and setting fire to highly flammable substances. Urrrggghhh!!

I take serious issue with mainstream media for this lack of focus on the GES. We set the agenda for this nation — that’s our mandate. Yet with days to go we can’t even focus on the sheer weight and clout the GES gives us as a country. Short of taking pictures off the internet to show people what Obama’s motorcade will look like (it’s nice), we have failed miserably to set the tone for what this summit means to us and for us.

Let me get the nonsense out of the way. Yes, yes, we are beautifying the city. Get over it. The grass and the pavements and the palm trees will stay well after Obama is gone. The cameras will stay as well. Maybe we needed this visit to do something about the ugliness of the city. I remember being at the 100-day countdown to the World Cup in South Africa. The people of South Africa made it very clear to the international press that if it were not for the World Cup 2010, the budget would never have been passed. No parliament can ever approve that sort of infrastructure budget. Ever. But overtime as I go through OR Tambo, King Shaka in Durban and the new airport in Cape Town, grab the Guatrain into Sandton, I have to admit that I’m little envious. They seized the moment to upgrade the infrastructure because the world was coming to South Africa.

This is our World Cup and this one is good. It’s about investment — if everything happens well and these people choose Kenya and we declare Kenya open for business, we will truly reap the benefits for years to come. Can we take our blinders off for two seconds and get with the programme.

My 800 words don’t allow me to go in-depth on the past GES. But do Google GES 2014 Marakesh. And then please get onto http://www.ges2015.org and follow GES 2015 Kenya, #ChooseKenya join the conversation. Don’t be a stranger and a bystander in your own town/country.

On May 11, 2015 my column stated boldly: Kenya is Open For Business. I was truly hoping someone in Uhuru’s office would grab the moment and send the message loudly to each and every delegate coming to Nairobi. I was also hoping the rest of us would line ourselves up to take advantage in our own small way of the opportunities presented. I’m going back to what I said in May:

I truly believe that after July 2015, we will never be the same again. My question to you this morning is, do we understand the importance of opening our doors to these people and at the same time do we know we should have a sign at the airport saying ‘Kenya - Open for Business’.

John Authers of the Financial Times ventures that “after centuries dominated by the Atlantic, and then the ascendancies of the Pacific Rim, it is the nations on the rim of the Indian Ocean that could dominate growth for the next generation.The next decade should at last see the ascendancy of India, and the long-delayed rise of east Africa”. My eye is always drawn to the phrase East Africa. I’m a firm believer that Kenya is the gateway to this part of the world, something that everyone knows — but it seems Kenyans didn’t get the memo.

I’m sending out the memo again from May 11, 2015. There’s lots of capital wanting to get into Kenya and Africa — an estimated US$ 18 trillion or more. But Kenya doesn’t have any automatic right to it; we’ll have to work very hard to get it, but what’s new, we are Kenyans — if we set our mind to it, we will do it.

However, we have a major incoming threat from Nigeria, Ethiopia and Dubai. Make no mistake: if Nigeria gets its act together, then our story, even clothed in regional garb, will take second place to this one giant country, with a single economy and set of rules.

Wakenya wenzangu, we have 24 months tops to dominate the African story, and we must start now — the GES 2015 is our launch pad, our runway to prosperity.

We are neither short of resources as a country, opportunity, brain power or human capital... and there is too much capital globally looking for what we have. We just need to get organised. We need to focus on the future and stop playing small.

I’m not in the mix for this year’s event; in fact I’m leaving town. I live too close to the United Nations to deal with the hassle the summit with create.

I don’t have to be in town. I have made it known to anyone who cares to know that if you need a little help navigating this country, give me a call.

As for those asking me for tickets this late in the day and those confused about the fact that communication is coming from DC for heaven’s sake Google something — get a clue.

This is the GES, we are simply the venue.

My challenge to all of us as the clock ticks towards July 25 and beyond is simple. Make it happen.

To President Uhuru Kenyatta, declare Kenya Open for Business and make it so.

To the private sector: push government to do the right thing and give them a plan. Ideas are nice, plans are better. I know, I know…. they never listen, don’t tire.

Keep pushing. To the rest of us: keep your eyes and ears open for those who come knocking. There’s enough for everyone and your job is to help make it happen. Our share of the possible trillion USD and more looking to enter this market is assured —all we have to do is to be willing to open doors, our hearts and minds to it. That’s the memo — don’t ever claim that no-one ever told you. Let’s get to work, 10 days to go and counting. Kenya is Open for Business, ama?

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