Your Highness, the Aga Khan,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
On behalf of the Government and the people of Kenya, I warmly welcome Your Highness, the Aga Khan, to Kenya as you celebrate your Golden Jubilee. Allow me to take this opportunity, Your Highness, to acknowledge your exemplary spiritual leadership and to wish you continued success in your divine calling.
Fifty years ago, this month, you acceded to the spiritual leadership of the Ismaili community. Over this period, you have recorded an impressive and enduring legacy of service to the Ismaili community, our country Kenya and the world at large. The achievements you have accomplished are an eloquent testimony of your dedication to your spiritual calling as well as selfless commitment to the well-being of mankind, irrespective of race or religion.
The Ismaili community has been an important partner in our quest for social and economic development in Kenya. The energy and resources that the community has continued to deploy in various fields of development, including health, education, business and investments have immensely benefited our people and country. I want to commend and thank the Ismaili community for their continued commitment to the social and economic development of our country. We value your contribution and look forward to even stronger bonds in the years ahead.
In particular, I applaud the good work of the Aga Khan Development Network in the health sector. Through the Aga Khan Health Services, the institution is playing an important role in the provision of quality healthcare services to our people. Indeed, Kenyans have benefited enormously from the three Aga Khan hospitals in the country, where over half a million patients are treated annually. Moreover, the hospitals also provide employment to over 1,800 people. In addition, the Aga Khan University hospital is the first University hospital in our region. The Aga Khan University hospital offers high quality medical training to the students. I am glad to note that the hospital has trained over 4,500 community health workers.
On the education front, we salute the immense contribution of the Aga Khan Education Services in the education sector. With thirteen schools and over six thousand students, the excellence of the Aga Khan Education Services continues to impact positively on the lives of many Kenyans. I hope that the Aga Khan Education Services can consider the possibility of extending their services to the less affluent areas of the country, for instance, the arid and semi arid areas as well as the poorer urban settings.
Let me assure you that as you continue to advance the vision and objectives of your operations in Kenya, you can count on my Government’s unwavering support. Indeed, and as you may be aware, my Government has over the last four and half years implemented a wide range of policy, legal and institutional reforms aimed at facilitating both business and charitable organizations to carry out their work efficiently and without hindrance throughout the country. The reforms have produced remarkable results, including sustained improvement of the performance of our economy over the last four years. For instance, the real G.D.P. growth rate has increased steadily from 0.4 percent in 2002 to 6.1 percent last year. We are looking forward to even better performance this year.
With respect to the investment climate, Kenya is today one of the easiest and best countries in which to do business. Indeed, as a result of the reforms we have implemented, our country was given an impressive rating of B+ by Standard and Poors, which is one of the most reputable rating agencies in the world. I can, therefore, confidently assure Your Highness, and the entire Ismaili community, that Kenya is now an even better investment destination. In view of the improvements we have made, I would like to urge members of the Ismaili community to increase their investments in our country.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The spirit of inclusiveness is one of the cornerstones of our social and economic philosophy. In this regard, my Government is committed to ensuring that all our people enjoy the benefits of the improved economic performance. Accordingly, we have implemented the programme of Free Primary Education. This programme has given hope to millions of children from poor families who are now assured of accessing basic education. Next year, we are taking another bold step by waiving tuition fees in all public secondary schools. This measure, together with the existing bursary scheme in support of children from poor families, will ensure that all children have access to secondary education.
Furthermore, we have introduced several devolved funds, which are being channelled directly to the communities in all parts of the country. Personally, I am encouraged by the enormous positive impact we have made in the lives of our people over the last four and a half years. I do recognize however, that there are both short-term and long-term challenges that we will continue to face.
In order to address these challenges, my Government is formulating a new economic blueprint, the VISION TWENTY THIRTY. This economic blueprint spells out the strategies that we will be deploying over the next five years and beyond, to enable us achieve even higher levels of social and economic development. We envisage the Kenya VISION TWENTY THIRTY to be an all-inclusive strategic plan that will transform our country into a middle-income economy. My appeal to Kenyans is that we should all remain focussed on consolidating the gains we have made. This will enable us to succeed in achieving the goals we have set for ourselves under the Kenya VISION TWENTY THIRTY.
The Aga Khan Development Network has over the years remained a true partner in Kenya’s economic development. This is largely because of your commitment to the improvement of the well-being of our people. In recognition of your dedicated service to the people of Kenya through the various organisations which you lead, I am gratified that I have today bestowed upon Your Highness, Kenya’s highest medal of honour, - the Chief of the Order of the Golden Heart of Kenya, (C.G.H.). I encourage you to continue your excellent work of advancing social and economic progress in our country.
With these remarks, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, may I now request you all to join me in a toast to His Highness the Aga Khan on his Golden Jubilee, and to wish him good health, and a long and prosperous life.
Thank you and God bless you all.