Remarks by Vice President Harris and President William Ruto of the Republic of Kenya at a State Luncheon

U.S. State Department
Washington, D.C.

1:10 P.M. EDT
     VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS:  Good afternoon, everyone.  Good afternoon.
     I — I will start, of course, by thanking our extraordinary Secretary Blinken.  You have been traveling the world at record pace.  That you are standing still at this moment is an extraordinary feat — (laughter) — given all you do.
     SECRETARY BLINKEN:  It’s the Kenyan coffee.  (Laughter.)
     THE VICE PRESIDENT:  And it’s the Kenyan coffee.  But on behalf of our country, I thank you, Tony Blinken, for all that you are.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you.
     And the Second Gentleman and I are honored to host this luncheon with you and Ms. Evan Ryan and to welcome President Ruto and Mrs. Ruto.  And to all of our distinguished guests — members of Congress, leaders in every sector of our society –welcome and thank you for your work and the partnership.
     So, I strongly believe that African ideas and innovations will have a significant impact on the future of the entire world — a belief driven in part by the extraordinary creativity, dynamism, and energy of young African leaders on a continent where, many of you may know, the median age is 19; on a continent where one in four people who occupy space on Mother Earth will be by the year 2050.  (Applause.)
     And fueled, then, by that sense of optimism, last year, I had the good pleasure of visiting the continent for a weeklong trip.  And it turns out, it’s the longest I’ve spent on foreign soil since I’ve been vice president.  (Laughter and applause.) 
     The goal of the trip — thank you.  The goal of the trip was to highlight and strengthen our partnerships in government, in business, and in the civil society; to increase private-sector investment; to revise — to revise and upgrade the U.S.-Africa narrative, which is long overdue; and to bring fresh focus to the innovation and ingenuity that is so prevalent across the continent of Africa. 
     There, at an incubator, I met with tech entrepreneurs who are taking small businesses online and strengthening supply chains.  I convened young musicians and artists whose Afrobeats are influencing music around the globe.  (Applause.)  I visited with climate activists, farmers, women small-business owners, and students.
     And at the end of that trip, I was more convinced than ever: The continent of Africa represents the future of our world.  (Applause.)  And I will add: Any leader that ignores the continent of Africa is doing so at their own peril.  (Applause.) 
     Which brings me to Kenya, Mr. President.  No country on the continent more embodies this spirit of innovation than Kenya.  Kenya, as many here know, has Silicon Savannah, a $1 billion technology ecosystem confronting challenges that range from the climate crisis to financial inclusion to healthcare.
     To address wealth inequity, innovators at M-PESA help low-income people pay and repay microloans, and they have revolutionized the mobile payments industry. 
     To help solve the problem and challenge of pollution coming from plastics and to address threats to marine ecosystems, a Kenyan startup now converts aquatic invasive plants into biodegradable plastic. 
     To tackle water security and, in particular, scarcity and drought, a Kenyan startup now turns humidity from the air into clean drinking water. 
     To help his deaf niece communicate, a Kenyan data scientist invented a smart glove to convert sign language into audible speech through a mobile app.  (Applause.) 
     And to — and to make healthcare more accessible and affordable, AI is now being used for medical image scans and chatbots are providing healthcare advice.
     President Ruto, innovation has flourished under your leadership.  You and I just left a fireside chat at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  Your leadership has been extraordinary.  And as I shared with you, with our Ambassador Whitman: You really, as a leader, symbolize the importance of the partnership between the United States and the continent. 
     You ran, Mr. President, on a platform of promoting entrepreneurship and strengthening your economy.  You have spoken powerfully about the need to bridge the digital divide and that innovation will drive economic growth.  Your work and this visit reinforces the point that African ideas and African innovation will help shape the future of the world.  The partnership between the United States and Kenya is grounded in shared values and a shared vision for the future.
We are grateful, Mr. President, for your commitment to democracy, your commitment to take bold action on the climate crisis, your commitment to broad-based economic growth, and your commitment to support global security and stability — most recently, through Kenya’s leadership to help stabilize Haiti.
The fates of the American people and the Kenyan people are intertwined.
Secretary Blinken just spoke about Tom Mboya and the airlift.  I will add: In 1959, when Mboya was in the United States gathering support for the airlift, he joined in a march with American civil rights activists.  Just blocks from here — just blocks from here, he spoke about our shared struggle for political freedom, economic opportunity, and human dignity.  And these 65 years later, I stand proud to acknowledge your leadership, Mr. President, of these same principles. 
Later on that trip, Mboya was invited to Atlanta — I see the former mayor here — by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  There, as they stood together, Dr. King said, and I quote, “Our struggle is not an isolated struggle.  We are all,” he said, “caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.” 
So, to you, President Ruto, just as it was then and even more so today, our people are interconnected and interdependent. 
And so, I will raise a glass and ask all to join.  To the U.S.-Kenya partnership and in celebration of our network of mutuality.
(Vice President Harris offers a toast.)
Mr. President, cheers.
And now I invite President Ruto to share a toast.  Thank you.  (Applause.)
PRESIDENT RUTO:  Madam Vice President, Secretary Blinken, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon.
AUDIENCE:  Good afternoon.
PRESIDENT RUTO:  It gives me tremendous pleasure to come back to this great building.  I was here two years ago.  And today, in my state visit to the United States, we meet again to celebrate 60 years of relationship between two friendly nations, the United States and Kenya.
Our relationship, based on a firm foundation of the values we share and believe in — values of freedom, democracy, rule of law, inclusivity, and equality — they were as present and meaningful many years ago; they are so today.
And as I come to the conclusion of this state visit, I am persuaded beyond any doubt that the relationship between the United States and Kenya and Africa is now onto a new pedestal.  (Applause.) 
I thank President Biden in a very special way for helping us reshape, reengineer, and write a new narrative for our continent. 
We all believe in a Nigerian proverb that says, “Until the lion learned to write, all stories favored the hunter.”  (Laughter and applause.)
We have decided that we are going to write our own story.  And we are — (applause) — and we started this last year, when I convened the first-ever Africa Climate Summit.  The conversation, the narrative has always been this continent of conflict, trouble, disease, poverty.  Yet, that is not the story of Africa. 
Africa is a continent of tremendous opportunity: the largest reserves of energy — renewable energy resources; 60 percent of the world’s arable, uncultivated land; 30 percent of mineral wealth — global mineral wealth, including those that are necessary for energy transition; the youngest continent, which will produce 40 percent of the world’s worki- — working — or workforce by 2050 and where a quarter of the world’s population will be living, providing the world’s biggest single market. 
In short, Africa is a rich continent and a continent of opportunity.  (Applause.)
I am very happy that President Biden and this visit is giving us the opportunity to rewrite and recalibrate the relationship between this great superpower and our continent.
And I am very proud that among the things we’ve agreed are not just about Kenya and the U.S., it’s about Kenya and the continent of Africa — from what we are doing around climate action; what we are doing around the financial architecture of the world to make it fairer, to make it much more sensitive, to make it much more agile, and to make it possible for many African countries and those in the Global South — many developing countries to access concessional resources for us to manage the affairs of our people, and that no country will spend more money on paying debt or on managing climate-induced crisis than they do on spending on health, education, or social service.  (Applause.)
I must commend the leadership of the United States — President Biden and the many other leaders I met at the Hill, including the Black Caucus, including the leadership — the joint leadership of the House and the Senate.  And all of them shared the same views with us that it’s time for a new relationship — to build a new relationship between our continent and the United States as we encourage the United States to take leadership on making sure that, together, we can have a freer, a safer, a healthier, and a much more prosperous con- — globe for all of us. 
Finally, we discussed many issues that today I find will give us new opportunities, will open new frontiers, and will enlarge the horizon for collaboration in making sure that we deal with the challenges that we all face of insecurity, of stability, challenges of debt and other financial challenges, but also give ourselves the opportunity to explore the tremendous opportunities that exist for collaboration in ex- — in exploiting our huge reserves and assets, using our human capital, and connecting assets that we have in our continent to technologies from the U.S., to financial results from the U.S., and creating a win-win outcome that works for the U.S., works for Kenya, and works globally for all humanity.
I thank you.  (Applause.) 
Let me request you to raise our glasses as I propose a toast to the long-lasting relationship, the good health, prosperous engagement, stability, and prosperity for the people of the United States and the people of Kenya.
(President Ruto offers a toast.)
END                  1:28 P.M. EDT

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