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Cablegate: President Kibaki Speaks to the Amcham

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FM AMEMBASSY NAIROBI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4473
INFO RUEHXR/RWANDA COLLECTIVE
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC

UNCLAS NAIROBI 004137

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DEPT FOR AF/E, AF/RSA
DEPT ALSO PASS TO USTR FOR BILL JACKSON
TREASURY FOR OREN WHYCHE-SHAW

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON ETRD EINV PREL KE
SUBJECT: PRESIDENT KIBAKI SPEAKS TO THE AMCHAM

1. (SBU) Summary: In an unprecedented gesture, Kenyan President Mwai
Kibaki addressed the American Chamber of Commerce in Kenya on
September 19. Touching on familiar economic reform and market
opening themes, Kibaki hit all the right notes in his speech. But
the real importance lies in the gesture itself and the signal it
sends of Kenya's desire for more engagement and stronger ties with
the United States. End Summary.

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Kibaki Comes for Lunch and is Warmly Welcomed
---------------------------------------------

2. (U) In an unprecedented gesture, Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki
spoke on September 19 to the recently established American Chamber
of Commerce in Kenya (ACCK). The gesture was a major coup for the
ACCK and was apparently unsolicited. State House asked for the
event after its public relations firm (an ACCK member) recently
raised it as one option for ways to improve the President's image.
The ACCK was caught off guard by the State House offer, but hastily
and efficiently converted its Annual General Meeting scheduled for
September 19 into a presidential speaking event open to all ACCK
members. In the smoothly orchestrated luncheon, the Ambassador
accompanied Kibaki into the ballroom and joined him on the dais.

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Hitting all the Right Notes
---------------------------

3. (SBU) In his prepared remarks, Kibaki said all the right things
to the assembled audience of U.S. and U.S.-related businesspeople.
He reiterated the Government of Kenya's (GOK) multi-pronged
commitment to improved governance and service delivery,
privatization, business friendly economic and civil service reforms,
improved physical infrastructure, and greater regional economic
integration as a means of expanding business opportunities for U.S.
and other firms. Touching on an issue near and dear to ACCK
members, he also pledged to improve relevant enforcement regimes to
combat counterfeiting and the dumping of substandard manufactured
goods in Kenya. In this regard, he said the GOK is currently
preparing new anti-counterfeit legislation which will be introduced
soon to Parliament.

4. (SBU) Kibaki also used the occasion to highlight Kenya as a good
place to do business in light of its strong private sector,
commitment to deeper reform, and natural advantages as a regional
business hub. He hailed the importance of the U.S.-Kenya business
relationship, and called on U.S. firms to invest more in the
country. To applause, and departing from his prepared remarks,
Kibaki made a sincere and much-appreciated appeal to the U.S.
business community to "talk to us freely" at any time whenever
concerns or problems arise about the business environment in Kenya.

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Comment
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5. (SBU) The President's speech broke no new ground, and reiterated
the GOK's oft-stated commitment to economic growth through free
markets, competition, and a truly empowered private sector. While
this rhetoric obscures the fact that Kenya remains a very difficult,
dangerous, and expensive place to do business, the very gesture of
reaching out to the ACCK seems to us important and noteworthy. This
is the first time in memory that a Kenyan President has addressed a
foreign business association. The fact that Kibaki initiated this
unprecedented interaction with the U.S. business community is a
small but very positive sign that he desires greater bilateral
engagement with the United States.
Ranneberger

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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