President Uhuru Kenyatta on Saturday touted Kenya’s digital innovations and Africa’s trade opportunities to the Group of 7 leaders in Sicily, Italy, reminding the world powers of the futility of keeping the continent at arm’s length in seeking solutions to global problems.
Pitching for a place on the high table of leaders of the world’s most developed democracies, President Kenyatta argued that Kenya and the rest of the continent were at the vanguard of solutions to the world’s major challenges – poverty, immigration, climate change and terrorism – and must be consulted.
He appeared to touch the core of the G7 leaders when he stated that boosting democracy across the world was the solution to the problems and the spill-off effects of innovations such as the use of internet and social media to spread terror.
Addressing the African Session of the G7 Summit at the San Domenico Palace Hotel at 10am on Sunday, President Kenyatta said Kenya was at the forefront in innovations which were tapping the skills of its people to transform the continent and place it on a path of growth.
“The continent’s transformation is contingent on innovation. I need to tell you that Kenya is a celebrated pioneer in ICT innovation in Africa. We have seen for ourselves the transformative power of innovation, as the internet and mobile telephony have diffused power to networks and individuals,” he said.
He cited Safaricom’s mobile money transfer service M-Pesa, the agriculture marketing app M-Farm and the emergency mapping tool Ushahidi as innovations that have placed Kenya ahead of other African countries.
“These innovations, and others, have made Kenya more dynamic and resilient; they have made Kenya more investor-friendly; and they have made Kenya the hub of East and Central Africa,” he said.
It was the second and last day of the G7 Summit in the picturesque town of Taormina at which Africa’s emerging economies and international organisations which play a key role in development were invited to dine with the leaders of the most developed world.
The G7 leaders at the meeting were Presidents Donald Trump (US), Emmanuel Macron (France), Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Ministers Theresa May (UK), Paolo Gentilon (Italy), Justin Trudeau (Canada) and Shinzo Abe (Japan).
Africa leaders who attended the talks included President of Niger Mahamandou Issoufou, Tunisia’s President Beji Caid Essebsi, Nigeria’s Deputy Prime Minister Yemi Osinbajo and Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Haile Mariam Desalegn.
Also at the talks were heads of African Union – chairperson Alpha Conde, AU Commission chairperson Mahamat Moussa Faki, and President of African Development Bank for Development Akinwumi Adesina.
The G7 leaders spoke of the need to work closely with the African continent to construct quality infrastructure, increase investment in innovation, create new opportunities for investments, stem the outflow of refugees and tackle terrorism.
President Kenyatta said the energy and enthusiasm of African youth in innovations have placed them on the edge of development and told the meeting of the investment attractiveness of the continent which he estimated at Sh576 trillion by the end of 2025.
“Africa is the world’s new frontier for trade and investment. Current indications are that Africa will have business opportunities worth $5.6 trillion by 2025,” he said.
Calling for investors to look at Africa as the go-to place for investment, he said that an educated labour force infused with technology was a guarantee of better returns on investment.
“We now see the emergence of business clusters that stimulate innovation, the creation of new businesses, and real growth. That’s why our returns on investment are some of the highest in the world, and that’s why members of the G7 will find, as others have found, that African markets are well worth their interest,” he said.
But for the continent’s potential to be realised, he urged G7 leaders to come down from their ivory towers and work closely with Africa to reduce poverty, stem immigration, fight terrorism and limit the effects of climate change. The partnership, he said, will free the world from endless search for a solution to Africa’s problems in which the world finds itself involved.
“The rewards are beyond calculation. A freer, more prosperous Africa is a more secure Africa. A freer, more prosperous Africa is a vital partner in solving some of the world’s most pressing problems: poverty, immigration, climate change, terrorism. This is the time to put Africa’s aspirations at the heart of your plans.”
During the meeting, diplomatic sources revealed that there was a push and pull among the G7 leaders in finding ways to turn the current wave of migration into a positive way of adding to development and investing heavily in food security in Africa. President Trump is said not to have seen any positive thing from the migration.
President Kenyatta flew out of the Sigonella Military Airbase in Sicily shortly after 3pm o Sunday on his way back to Nairobi.