U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Washington, D.C.

11:57 A.M. EDT
     AMBASSADOR WHITMAN:  Well, good morning — almost good afternoon — and thank you both for joining us.  It’s really a privilege for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and, I think, our audience. 
     So, Madam Vice President, I’ll start with you if you don’t mind.  So, you have been leader on Africa policy in the Biden-Harris administration.  And you visited, you know — Suzanne mentioned Ghana, Tanzania, and Zambia last year.  We missed you in Kenya.  (Laughs.)
     VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS:  I’ll get there, I promise.  I will get there.
     AMBASSADOR WHITMAN:  And you focused specifically on investing in innovation and investing in young people and investing in women.
     AMBASSADOR WHITMAN:  So, why did you take that approach?  And what are your lasting impressions from the trip?  What did you learn that was particularly interesting?
     VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS:  Thank you, Madam Ambassador.  And, Mr. President, it is good to be with you on this stage. 
     I strongly believe that we are at a moment where we should revisit and upgrade and update the narrative of the relationship between the United States and the continent of Africa. 
     When you think about the continent, the median age is 19 years old — 19.  It is predicted that by 2050, one in four people occupying space on Mother Earth will be on the continent of Africa. 
     So, when I think of it just from that perspective, many could rightly argue that the future is on the continent of Africa.  (Applause.)  Yes. 
     I also think — and I’ll speak very candidly here — that we have to revisit and — and revise the narrative around the relationship in a way that appreciates that ours, the role of the United States, should not be one of benevolence but of thinking about the relationship in the context of partnership. 
     So, it is not about — simply about aid but about investment and understanding the capacity that exists and has been proven to be strong on the continent and therefore is worthwhile in terms of an investment, understanding it will yield a great return on investment. 
     And when I think, Mr. President, in particular about your leadership in Kenya, I think this is empirical evidence of the need — of the imperative of the United States, through our government and private sector, partnering with Kenyans, with the Kenyan government in a way that recognizes the extraordinary opportunity for continued investment writ large in innovation, thinking about what we must do as a global community around addressing crises like the climate crisis, what we can do through those investments that makes clear and real what we know to be the growth that — broad-based economic growth that occurs wherever and everywhere when you invest in women. 
     And then, doing that work through a partnership that also appreciates it is good for American business to be invested in relationships that contribute to global stability.  Global stability, of course, results also in global economic stability. 
     And so, for all of these reasons, I simply believe it is the right thing to do, not to mention the intertwined history between the continent and our country.  But also, if we are going to be at all forward-thinking, it is an imperative.
     Frankly, as Vice President — and I say this as a devout public servant — sadly, often our strategy around foreign policy is based on the crisis of the moment.  And part of how I think about the future and the imperative of the relationship with African nations is based on a vision that public policy be formed and implemented now based on a vision for the next 10, 20, and 50 years. 
     And again, that all brings me back to the continent of Africa, and Kenya is an example of a vibrant partnership. 
     AMBASSADOR WHITMAN:  Great, thank you very much.  I — (applause).  The “doing things before you have a crisis” —
     AMBASSADOR WHITMAN:  — is a lot easier —
     VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS:  How about that?  (Laughs.)
     AMBASSADOR WHITMAN:  — than waiting until afterwards. 
     AMBASSADOR WHITMAN:  Mr. President, you have been a tremendous champion for tech and innovation in Kenya and its ability to spur economic development and promote opportunity.  So — and also, by the way, advancing gender equality and inclusion.  So, just love to hear your point of view, maybe your evolving point of view on the power of technology and what it can do for Kenya. 
     And for those of you who don’t know, Kenya was the dest- — the largest destination for startup capital on the continent in 2023 — ahead of Nigeria, ahead of South Africa, and ahead of Egypt — which is a quite a remarkable achievement.  (Applause.)
     PRESIDENT RUTO:  Thank you very much.  And thank you very much, Vice President Kamala Harris, for finding time to engage with us in this very important American Chamber of Commerce-Kenya meeting. 
     Speaking about technology and speaking about opportunities in the technology space, three things come to my mind.  Technology is the facility, is — is the instrument that we can use to leapfrog Africa from where we are to the next — to catch up, if I may, with the rest of the world. 
     We have the youngest population.  That young population is tech hungry.  That young population, we have the opportunity to shape it in the direction in which we think it should.  And that is why a country like Kenya — we are investing 30 percent of our budget in education, training, knowledge, skills.  We are investing $5 billion every — every year. 
     And I said earlier, it — it’s money we believe is an investment because if there is a single-most important asset that we have is our human capital.  And as my sister Kamala said, we’re looking at the continent that will have a quarter of the world’s population by 2050.  Forty percent of the world’s workforce will be from the African continent.  Therefore, it is not only about labor and, therefore, you need the correct quality of labor, it is also about market.  The biggest market ever will exist in the African continent. 
     And therefore, technology is the biggest enabler, the biggest multiplier of what can be done.  And I — and I see it every day.  For example, M-PESA took Kenya from a banking ratio of, I think, about 20 percent and tripled it, you know, just using technology. 
     Many more Kenyans, including my mother who has not been to school, she operates M-PESA. 
     PRESIDENT RUTO:  She knows how to do it. 
     PRESIDENT RUTO:  You know?  So, that’s what happens to many people in Kenya. 
     So, we look at technology as an enabler and as a mechanism through which we can use the biggest resource we have in — in our young people, and we can also use it to better deliver agriculture, health, education, tax collection, government services. 
     In fact, for Kenya, we are moving all government services.  When I came into office, we had 300 government services.  We’re now — we’ve now moved to 17,000 government services on a digital platform, because that is where the future is.  That’s how we can be able to efficiently deliver government services, cost-effectively deliver government services, accountably deliver government service.  So, accountability, efficiency, effica- — the technology enables us to do all that much more efficiently. 
     Therefore, Madam Kamala Harris, you are focused in the right direction: on technology, digital space, young people, women.  I think that that space is the space that will give us the greatest output as we go into the future. 
     And it is, for example, the reason — just before you came in — we have signed into a billion-dollar investment using American technology from Microsoft, capabilities from G42 — capital resources from G42, and renewable energy from Kenya, because Kenya has the extra asset of having tech-savvy human capital.  G22 — G42 will tell you and Microsoft — and I’m sure they are in this meeting —
     PRESIDENT RUTO:  — Microsoft will tell you —
     VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS:  Brad Smith is here. 
PRESIDENT RUTO:  — some of their best human capital come from Kenya.  (Applause.)
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS:  Yeah, that’s right.  That’s right.  That’s right. 
AMBASSADOR WHITMAN:  Madam Vice President, you might be interested to know that Kenya is the home to the only semiconductor technology on the continent, and 70 percent of their engineers are women. 
AMBASSADOR WHITMAN:  So, pretty remarkable.  (Applause.)
AMBASSADOR WHITMAN:  So, I know how hard you’ve been working on the Digital Inclusion Project.  And I think today you’re — you’re going to talk a little bit about the progress that —
AMBASSADOR WHITMAN:  — you’ve made and — and, you know, building on the trip that you made to Africa.  So, maybe you can bring us up to speed on what you’ve accomplished and — and how you’re feeling about the whole program. 
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS:  I will, but first I just must thank you, Meg Whitman — (applause) — for taking up the position of being ambassador.  I’ve known the Ambassador for a long time, I say with a bit of bravado, as a proud Californian and —
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: — and your work and your groundbreaking work in technology is extraordinary.  And this is just the perfect moment that you would step up and serve in this capacity.  And I thank you for that.  (Applause.)
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS:  Thank you.  Thank you.
So, digital inclusion is — was at the heart of the idea for this initiative that is focused on the continent. 
And I want to thank a few people who I know are here: Brad Smith is here.  Michael Miebach is here.  It — it was — it was companies like Microsoft, MasterCard — foundations — Melinda French Gates was one of the earliest to contribute as much as $10 million for the women in digital inclusion focused on women — the Ford Foundation. 
And so, essentially, this is how it all happened is a — a simplified version.  I got on the phone, and I called a bunch of people.  And I — and called them to say, “I know that you have some interest based on the work that you’ve done before.  Can we collaborate in a focused way that develops synergy around a public-private partnership?” 
And the foundation for the work being digital inclusion, understanding that all business at this point is tech business and any business, any economy that is going to grow, much less be sustainable between now and the future, must integrate and adapt and adopt technology in a — in a very — in an institutional way. 
And this includes, as you describe, Mr. President, your mother.  It includes that it must be the people, not just the governments and the — and the corporations, that understand how the technology works. 
Another piece of the focus was something I’ve long believed many of us do: If you — if we are focused on strengthening economies, one of the smartest ways to do that is to invest in women.  The reality is that when you improve the economic condition — (applause) — when you improve the economic condition of women, you improve the economic condition of families, communities, and all of society benefits.  So, a lot of the — the work then, in terms of the initial design, was to think of it that way. 
It was also to layer upon the initiative: What are the — the current crises that we must address in a way that we see opportunity for economic growth?  The climate crisis being an obvious one.  The climate crisis having a direct impact on agricultural economies.  And knowing, then, that we are developing the — the most extraordinary smart technology to help farmers. 
And when they have access to technology, when they are able to get online, the services that are available will help them with crop management; will help them determine what crop they should plant this season based on satellite technology, which can predict the weather for that period of time, so they are not bound by tradition.  Technology which helps farmers determine whether there is too much water in drought conditions that are being used on a specific plant — too much fertilizer, which we know has an impact on the climate.
All of this is facilitated — these traditions — these traditional ways of either growing or not growing economies can be facilitated, like you said, Mr. President, when we look at the issue of digital inclusion.
So, we developed this partnership that is a public-private partnership.  I know that Michael and Brad talked earlier about what we are doing specifically, but the — the vision is that we can — and U.S. businesses, in particular, can partner with our allies in a way that invests in the infrastructure that allows these economies to thrive.
I will also say I’m a big believer in public partnershi- — public-private partnerships for two main reasons.  One, we — as government, we have the — the scale.  We have the ability to scale.  But truly, the private sector has the depth of skill and expertise, often, that, when you combine it with the scale capacity of government, can have a profound impact on large populations of people. 
The second point I will make, especially as vice president, is that through these public-private partnerships, I can speak then with our allies or potential partners around the globe.  I’m doing this work, for example, in the northern part of Central America.  And I can then sit down with world leaders and explain to them that private investment, U.S. investment will be dependent and reliant on in- — in rule of law, on democracy, on an adherence and respect for human rights. 
And understand then, in that way, the power of public-private partnerships, especially when we are talking about these relationships around the globe, understanding that increasingly U.S. business is interdependent and intradependent with our allies and nations around the world.  And these partnerships, then, make a lot of sense.
AMBASSADOR WHITMAN:  Let me — that’s — let me follow that up quickly, and we have just a few more minutes.  But, Mr. President, tell us a little bit of how you think about these partnerships and how you think about Americans — since we’re here in America — how you think about the American companies and — and how they’re helping you to skill, to build out this ecosystem.
PRESIDENT RUTO:  Vice President Kamala Harris has said a very profound thing about relationships — building the correct relationship.  We need to recalibrate, you know, our — our engagement.
Let me start with where we were at the Africa Climate Summit last year.  At the Africa Climate la- — Summit last year, we pushed to change the narrative around Africa.
For a long time, it was about blame game: who caused this, why — why this has happened.  We decided we cannot continue to be in the victim corner.  Let’s get ourselves and project a new narrative.  Kenya — Kenya and Africa can be part of the solution.  (Applause.)  You know?
And — and for a moment, it — it looked strange, because people were wondering, “We thought we were victims of climate change.  We thought we didn’t cause it.  Africa caused only 4 percent.  Wh- — how can we be part of the solution?”
We’re saying we have the largest resources of renewable energy.  We have the youngest population.  We have 60 percent of the world’s arable land, which we can use smart agriculture.  We have the natural carbon sinks.  We have the largest minerals that are even necessary for energy transition. 
Why is a rich continent in a corner looking weak and defeated and — and a victim?
So, we — we decided to change the narrative.  And for the first time, we had a different conversation.  We are discussing: Since we have tremendous con- — potential, how do we move this to opportunity and to investment? 
PRESIDENT RUTO:  That is the conversation.  So, that’s point number one. 
And we must have it both ways.  We have some work to do on our side.  Our partners, like the U.S., have some work to do.  Aid will not get us anywhere.  Extracting raw materials from Africa will not get us anywhere. 
So, it’s — it’s balanced.  We — we must stop the extraction.  But we must also think outside aid.  And the place to think is about investment.  And when you are thinking investment, you must think about how to bring both public and private investment.  And that is why private-public engagement —
PRESIDENT RUTO:  — is ultimate.
PRESIDENT RUTO:  It is necessary. 
PRESIDENT RUTO:  I’ll give you examples.  We have the most modern expressway in Nairobi.  It wasn’t built using government money.  It was built using private-sector money in a PPP framework. 
It — it’s working.  I am now doing a PPP framework to deli- — to transmit — for energy transmission.  We’re doing the first five transmission lines in Kenya.  Why should government invest money in a transmission line when we can only pay a (inaudible) charge for somebody in the private sector who can invest their money? 
We’re looking at how we can also do it with the airports, how we can do it the ports, how we can do it with the rest so, that way, we can bring huge investment money into our economies without necessarily contracting debt or looking for aid. 
Let me give a perfect example today here.  We just signed an investment of a billion dollars.  You know?  It would take me ages — (laughter) — to get a billion dollars from any government, including the American government.  (Laughter.) 
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS:  It would take us that long too.  (Laughter.)   
PRESIDENT RUTO:  You know?  It would take me ages, but the private sector can do it.  They — they will bring the billion dollars —
PRESIDENT RUTO:  — because it makes business sense to them. 
PRESIDENT RUTO:  You know, they — they are investing.  They will make money.  We will use our geothermal.  We will employ our young people.  They will pay taxes.  Everybody will win.  They will make profits.  So, it is win-win. 
So, we must also, as — as governments, as Africa, we must make ourselves investment-ready so that, by eliminating barriers, eliminating roadblocks, making it easy for those who want to invest in our corner to do so. 
And that is why — one more thing.  That is why we are having an engagement to make sure that Africa is not unfairly profiled as a risky continent and thereby making investors — (applause).  You know?
And — and it is the reason why I was having a very robust en- — engagement with President Biden.  And I must thank him profusely, because he agreed with me that we need a reform of the international financial architecture so that we make it fairer so that all countries, all continents can access finances without unnecessary profiling and without making them pay more than they should. 
So — (applause) — believe you me, I think we are having the right conversation.  I think we are right — we are having the right conversation — and conversation around having a level playing field so that both public and especially the private sector can do what they do best and government can facilitate and do what we can do best.  (Applause.)
AMBASSADOR WHITMAN:  Well, thank you very much.  It is my responsibility — it’s my responsibility to get Madam Vice President to her lunch —
AMBASSADOR WHITMAN:  — that she is hosting. 
But I want to commend your leadership on this subject.  Thank you for what you do for Africa. 
And if you want to just say one last word, we really, really — a round of applause for the Vice President.  She’s done a remarkable, remarkable job.  (Applause.)
I will emphasize the point that President Ruto made: The — the capacity that we have in public-private partnership is being illustrated around our focus on the continent of Africa, and let it be an example as we think about future-forward policy.  That is where the future is.
We in government don’t have — not only the — necessarily the depth of the skill, but we cannot pull together the billions of dollars, to your point —
PRESIDENT RUTO:  (Inaudible.)
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS:  — that we can do with these kinds of partnerships that will have exponential and immediate impact. 
And I’ll just close with this.  President Ruto, I think that your trip and your visit — this state visit — is, history will show, an inflection point in how we are revising and upgrading the narrative of the relationship between the United States and the continent of Africa, and I thank you for that.  Thank you.  (Applause.)
AMBASSADOR WHITMAN:  Thank you very much.    
END       12:21 P.M. EDT

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