President Uhuru Kenyatta has asked American institutions to support indigenous African solutions fashioned to address governance challenges facing the continent.
The President said the US and the world at large have a lot to gain by making Africa work for its people.
President Kenyatta spoke on Wednesday in Washington DC when he addressed leaders of the Atlantic Council at a forum dubbed “The Future of The US-Kenya Strategic Partnership”
The Atlantic Council is an American Atlanticist international affairs think-tank founded in 1961 as a non-partisan institution aimed at galvanizing the US leadership and engaging with the world for purposes of finding solutions to global challenges.
The council uses its forums to influence US policies to make them responsive to the needs of a free, secure and prosperous world.
President Kenyatta cautioned American institutions against advancing democracy as a one-size-fits-all prescription saying the approach undermines the foundations upon which the concept is based.
He said African countries should be given opportunities to engineer new approaches that support and extend democracy in line with their realities.
“It requires bringing more nuance to how we make judgements about politics, and the resulting interventions countries like the United States should undertake,” President Kenyatta said.
The Head of State pointed out that Kenya is currently engineering its own homegrown solutions to political, social and governance challenges facing it through the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).
He said the BBI process “is a homegrown (Kenyan) solution for a divisive political culture that has often sparked electoral crises over the last thirty years”.
The Kenyan leader noted that BBI, which was framed as anchor for his “handshake” with Raila Odinga, his main challenger in the last presidential election, is aimed at addressing cyclic post-election violence by ensuring inclusivity in government.
He said inclusivity is needed in Kenyan politics for democracy to thrive adding that his coming together with Raila Odinga “disoriented the politics of extremism and division”.
President Kenyatta invited the Atlantic Council and similar American institutions to take interest in the BBI saying the process will deliver bold reforms that will advance inclusion, economic uplift, countering corruption and strengthening institutions.
“As a think-tank, you should delve deeper into the BBI process. It is not as simple as it looks. We have found a number of countries seeking to learn from it in trying to re-engineer their politics and social contracts.
“We have been open in sharing. In time, I believe that this may emerge as a unique model that can be adopted and domesticated elsewhere in Africa and worldwide,” President Kenyatta said.
On the US-Africa partnership, the President cautioned against the repeat of historical mistakes as he called on African and American institutions to focus on exploiting available business opportunities for the mutual economic benefit of all parties.
“We must begin to look at Africa as the world’s biggest opportunity, if you can dare look at it with a fresh eye and a sense of history. And Kenya is a key country in converting that opportunity into mutual gain,” he said.
President Kenyatta pitched for strong US-Africa partnership saying the current African leadership is not motivated by the perpetuation of narrow partisan interests but rather focused on empowering the continent’s citizens economically.
“I have noticed in the conversation in Western countries and their counterparts in Asia and the Middle East a return to competition over Africa. In some cases weaponising divisions, pursuing proxy actions, and behaving like Africa is for the taking. It is not,” President Kenyatta said.
Responding to questions from the audience, President Kenyatta said Kenya’s strategy for continued economic growth is focused on designing a social contract that addresses concerns of all Kenyans.
The President of the Atlantic Council Mr Frederick Kempe said Kenya is one of the most valuable US partners in the war against terrorism.
Mr Kempe said despite numerous terrorist attacks, Kenya has remained steadfast an economic, commercial and logistics hub of the East African region and a global leader in the development of mobile money and financial inclusion with over 80 percent of regional trade flowing through the Mombasa port.
Present at the forum were US Ambassador to Kenya Kyle McCarter, former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs and also a former US Ambassador to Kenya Johnny Carson, and Amb Linda Thomas-Greenfield who is a former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs.
Others were former US Ambassador to Multiple African Countries Terence McCully and U.S. Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa Dr Peter Pham.