Ruto sells M-Pesa revolution as Adan Mohamed introduced as cabinet secretary in US meeting

President William Ruto with Apple CEO Tim Cook in the US.

Photo credit: PSC

President William Ruto has wooed entrepreneurs in the United States (US) to consider investing in Kenya, touting the country's potential as a hub with robustness and "dynamism in technological innovation and beyond".

Dr Ruto also hinted at a forthcoming partnership between international tech giant Apple and Safaricom's mobile money platform M-Pesa, which will see the telco expand its reach.

"Safaricom is developing a partnership with Apple Inc to integrate M-Pesa and the Apple Pay platform to expand the transaction reach of M-Pesa globally," said President Ruto, as Kenya positions itself as a development hub of choice.

Speaking at the US-Africa Business Roundtable on Saturday, he said Kenyans are innately resilient and able to compete with economies with superior resource endowments, despite being in Africa - a region usually considered an underdog.

"At the heart of our entrepreneurial culture are the hopes, dreams and aspirations of the Kenyan people... I must not give the impression that we are trying to be all things to all people," said the President.

The summit, which brings together policymakers and investors and was attended by US Ambassador Meg Whitman and President Ruto, among other high-level government delegation, introduced former Trade Minister Adan Mohamed, who President Ruto recently appointed as one of his economic advisors, as "Cabinet Secretary and Economic Advisor".

Mr Mohamed has recently taken a leading role in trade relations and negotiations, often seen as the face of such deals, a role normally held by the relevant cabinet secretary.

The remarks of the British Robinson, coordinator of Prosper Africa, the US Presidential Initiative on US-Africa Economic Relations, which organised the summit, were greeted with diametrically opposed views.

"I am pleased to greet His Excellency President William Ruto and his high-level government delegation from Kenya today, including Cabinet Secretary for Foreign and Diaspora Affairs Alfred Mutua, Principal Secretary for ICT and Digital Economy John Tanui, and Cabinet Secretary and Economic Advisor Adan Mohamed. All protocols were followed," said Ms Robinson, the summit organiser, in her opening remarks.

In July, US Trade Representative Katherine Tai cancelled two scheduled meetings with Kenyan Cabinet Secretary for Trade Moses Kuria to discuss trade relations between the two countries.

She instead met Mr Mohamed, both separately and later in a meeting with President Ruto at State House.

President Ruto said his government is committed to focusing on climate-resilient development as a means of reducing exposure and vulnerability to climate hazards. These sectors, he said, will add the most value and contribute the most to the country."We believe it is essential for the success of our interventions that we focus only on those technology sectors where we can add the most value and contribute the maximum benefit. Green, clean energy will be at the heart and soul of Kenya's technology growth and development," said President Ruto.

Nevertheless, Kenya has shown its determination to establish itself as a manufacturing hub and Africa's business process outsourcing and creative economy hub, he said. Kenya is also establishing itself as a destination of choice for IT and IT-enabled services.

"We are also developing the Silicon Savannah Appstore as a platform to showcase innovations developed in Kenya for Africa," he added.

In his speech, President Ruto said that Kenya stands apart from its peers in Africa because "only capital and technology, in the form of ready, affordable and adequate investment, stand between Africa's potential and destiny, between underdevelopment and industrial transformation, between poverty and prosperity, between a youth time bomb and a demographic dividend".

For decades, President Ruto said, thinkers have toyed with the idea of a space and culture dedicated to the development and expansion of technology companies, products and innovations in Africa.

The idea that Africa needs its own tech capital isn't new or aspirational, he said. However, due to a number of factors, many African countries still struggle with low internet penetration, digital literacy and electricity connectivity, all of which hinder technological growth.

"Access to the internet - which is virtually a basic human right across the world - remains out of reach for most people on our continent, with less than 22 per cent expected to have access by 2021," President Ruto explained.