Kenya has come a long way since our first President wished the country a Happy New Year fifty-four years ago. We began 1964 a free and independent people; that night, Kenyans celebrated not just a new year, but the start of a historic journey of freedom and self-government.
Once they had wrested our freedom from empire, our fathers turned to the war against poverty, disease and ignorance. Their vision and their hopes have guided us for a half century.
Even when we have stumbled and encountered hardships, we, the Kenyan people, have never lost sight of our destination: a country in which every citizen’s talents and dreams are achieved; in which every Kenyan shares in our prosperity; and a Kenya secure and at peace with the world.
In the last five years, we have worked hard to hasten our progress to that destination, by laying the foundations for the kind of economy required by our young, educated and ambitious people.
We built a world-class railway on time and within budget. On the 2nd of January, that railway will begin carrying commercial cargo, cutting costs and delays in trade for Kenyan businesspeople, and our neighbours. We delivered on this promise because we knew that to attract world-class manufacturing and value-addition investments, which are critical to creating jobs, we would need world-class infrastructure. We did the same with roads, by undertaking the most aggressive expansion and upgrading effort in our nation’s history.
The impact has been felt in the lives of our people. Journeys that once took days, especially in the rainy season, have been cut to hours. Farmers are getting their produce to market faster, and towns newly connected are thriving as never before. When Kenyans can travel more easily, they trade with one another more, build greater prosperity, and get to know and respect one another more.
With the rapid growth of connections to electricity, millions of Kenyan homes are now lit up. Many of us celebrating this New Year under light bulbs celebrated the last one under candles and lamps. Children in these homes can now study into the night, and do better academically. The success of the last mile project for power is being studied all over the region and the world, because it is one of the fastest such expansions globally. Almost every school in the Republic is now connected to power. We promised digital learning devices. We delivered. In the last two years, they have brought new knowledge to hundreds of thousands of our children. They will do even better academically now that we have reformed our exam system, and raised standards in our institutions of higher learning.
In a few days, there will be more entrants into secondary school than ever before in our history. Rather than watch our children drop out of the educational system when they are barely teenagers, almost all of them will now further their education. This is because we believe that education should be inclusive not exclusive; we have delivered on this and it is going to transform our children and our country with them. Our sons and daughters who graduate and do not go to university will have the choice to undertake technical education, which promises to gain them decent employment.
This was yet another area of our attention where we delivered new and upgraded technical training institutes throughout the country. In the coming years, as our investments in building an investment-ready economy bear fruit, the graduates of these institutes will find jobs in manufacturing, in services, and in construction.
Kenyans this year are healthier than they have been in the past. Our reforms of the National Health Insurance Fund and the free maternal care programme have been a great success. We also delivered modern diagnostic equipment to every county; the long and expensive bus journeys to Nairobi to access the most modern care have become a burden of the past.
We will not stop there. As you know, under my Big Four Plan, my Administration has committed to healthcare for every Kenyan. The days of hospital costs bankrupting families will end. Healthier Kenyans will be more productive Kenyans; and our economy will benefit immensely.
In the past five years, devolution has transformed our governance. Today, every county receives a proportional share of revenue, to pursue the priorities of Kenyans at the grassroots.
We should be proud of the speed with which we undertook this historic reform: few, if any, countries anywhere in the world have transformed their governance as widely or as quickly as we did. There is still further to go in this process, particularly in ensuring that the funds transferred to the devolved units are responsibly used, so that they change the lives of citizens.
Serious security challenges have come our way in the last five years; we have strengthened our response to them. Today, the terrorists who threaten our people and our country have a far harder time succeeding in their evil plans, thanks to our brave, empowered and supported security officers. The impact of crime in the daily lives of Kenyans has dropped in response to the sharp increase in the number of police officers whose equipment is enhanced.
There is further to go in securing Kenya and every Kenyan, but we are on an upward climb that will make our country more secure month by month.
We worked hard in the last five years to deliver better services, security, and in building a foundation for a more prosperous Kenya. We have made remarkable progress; the journey continues, for there are Kenyans who worry about low incomes, the cost of food and shelter. We will continue to work each and every day to ease the life of every Kenyan. We laid a foundation, as we promised; we will build on it to bring prosperity and dignity to every Kenyan.
We will sharply increase our manufacturing base to create better jobs; and our institutions of learning will produce young people ready to work in multiple trades in the manufacturing sector. We will invest in agriculture in an ambitious and innovative way to make food available and affordable for every Kenyan. We will respond to your need for accessible and affordable healthcare, so that no illness throws a Kenyan family into hardship.
Working with the private sector, we will deliver half a million decent and affordable homes to working Kenyans in the next five years. We will make owning a home an opportunity that even Kenyans of modest incomes can afford. Home ownership is a path to the middle class; it will now become an accessible part of the Kenyan dream. Importantly, the delivery of the new homes will also create hundreds of thousands of new jobs.
We will ensure that every Kenyan has access to healthcare. We will enter a new era of food security for Kenyans, so that food is accessible and affordable. We will ensure that we add value to our agricultural products, so that our farmers’ produce brings jobs and incomes for young people in factories and the transport sector.
In the last five years, we kept our promises to one another. In 2018, and for the next four years after that, we will continue with this record of delivery. It is what the Kenyan people expect; it is what they deserve; and it is my duty to deliver to them.
In the next few weeks, I will unveil the men and women to whom I will entrust delivery of the Big Four, and other programmes that will transform this country. I will expect these men and women to serve Kenyans without partiality and with the very highest standard of integrity and efficiency. They must prove themselves worthy of the trust Kenyans will have bestow on them.
Friends; Kenyans urgently desire stronger and more prosperous families and communities. Every leader listening to me tonight must know in their bones that our first priority is to serve that desire. Whether you are the leader of a family or of a small community, an MCA, an MP, a Senator, a Governor or a Cabinet Secretary, your job is to serve, to work hard every single day to confirm that the choice in you as leader was the right choice. The trust that we have been given as leaders is a sacred one. It was given to build, to deliver development, to concretely improve the lives of your constituents.
I will work every single day in 2018 to deliver. I urge you to include in your New Year resolutions a pledge to greet every new day with renewed dedication to add value in your job, and to become your neighbour’s minder and protector.
Let us enter this New Year with glad tidings in our heart, and be able to see ourselves as the world beaters that we are as Kenyans. Teach your children that we are a people of consequence because of the many thousands of Kenyans who excel in every field; and because of our collective will to constantly improve and renew our union.
For those of you in business, build on the fact that we are one of the most attractive investment destinations on the continent. Go out and make the case to investors and scale up your efforts. As individuals, every Kenyan has a plan for the year.
Make sure to remember that your fellow Kenyans in multiple fields, from athletics to entertainment and scholarship are world leaders. Emulate their example in your own work, and you will find that you too have immense potential that can be realised in 2018.
We thank our neighbours, and the Good Samaritans in our lives. They come in every shade, every colour, every ethnicity, every gender, every age. Pray that we do justice to the hopes and aspirations of our parents and our forefathers, as individuals and as a nation.
How blessed we are to turn a new chapter together; to strive together to build mighty works; to reason together to solve any disagreements; to listen and learn from one another, for none of us has all the answers.
We thank God, for we are blessed to have been born Kenyans, and to belong to this rich and favoured land that is making its way, one day at a time, to greatness. God bless Kenya and all those who live in our country. God bless Africa and every human being on this planet.
By H.E. Uhuru Kenyatta
President of the Republic of Kenya.