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The Africa Now Conference 2019, Kampala, Uganda

African countries need to reposition technology as a driver of economic growth, Deputy President William Ruto has said.

He said technology is a prime enabler of sustainable competitiveness, with the power to elevate African countries to middle-income level.

Dr Ruto noted that countries can embrace modern technology by investing in education and training, beginning by aligning the needs of the private sector “vis-a-vis what our youth are taught”.

DP Dr William Ruto in Kampala Uganda for the Africa Now Conference 2019
“A suitably reoriented technology should impart leadership, digital and soft skills in every young person going through the education system,” he said.

The Deputy President spoke on Tuesday in Munyonyo, Uganda, during the Africa Now Summit 2019.

Leaders attending the two-day conference, whose theme is “Towards a secure, integrated and growing Africa” are Uganda President Yoweri Museveni (Uganda), Somalia President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed and Uganda Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda.

Others are Tanzania Vice President Samia Suluhu, Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development Mukhisa Kituyi and Chairman of Heirs Holdings and United Bank for Africa Tony Elumelu.

Having appreciated the power of technology in furthering growth, Dr Ruto said Kenya was scaling up training and support for innovation by financing and facilitating market access for young people to create, collaborate, test and improve concepts.
 
“This is how vibrant tech hubs arise, survive and drive structural change,” he noted.

At the same time, Dr Ruto urged African leaders to refine their education to focus on science, technology and innovation.

He said the move would help align training with market needs and to the demands of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.  

He told the conference that Kenya was already implementing the “most ambitious programme on human capital development, focused on technical and vocational training”.

“This has seen an increase in the number of technical and vocational training institutions by close to 300 in the last four years,” said the Deputy President. 

He added that for the first time since independence, the number of students enrolling in technical institutions in Kenya exceeded those joining universities.

But for these dreams to be made true in Africa, Dr Ruto called on African countries to accommodate the new maturity in political contestation in the continent.

He further noted that leaders need to uphold the rule of law, expression and assembly both online and in public spaces. 

“Transparency is no longer an empty aspiration externally demanded, but is informing movements led by Kenya and others, for a true ethic of openness and civic participation in governance. We can forge a stable, peaceful, prosperous future for our youth without fear,” he said.

President Museveni said despite the continent being dotted by many think-tanks, most of them are after pushing the interests of the West “and they do not think about Africa”.

He noted that for Africa to be transformed, focus should be put on qualitatives rather than quantitatives.

“Our creativity is being erased and wiped out by cheap, sub-standard colonial imports. We must therefore integrate to further the Africa Rising agenda,” he said.

He challenged African leaders to work towards making the continent stable, observing that Africa cannot talk about transformation when some of the countries still face insecurity.

“Africa can be the engine of the world’s development if we strike out the bottlenecks that hinder free movement of factors of production,” he added.

Ms Suluhu said there was need for more women to be involved in making Africa better. 

“Past experience shows women have the will and power to influence pro-poor policies across the world. As we seek to elevate our countries to the middle-income level, women should be at the centre of it,” she said.

Her sentiments were supported by Eddy Maloka, the chief executive officer of Africa Peer Review Mechanism who noted that there was an urgent need for leaders to work towards the United States of Africa vision.

“This has already started with the amalgamation of countries into economic blocs. This, however, must be supported by a homegrown development recipe by Africa for Africa,” explained Prof Maloka.

MPs accompanying the Deputy President in Uganda are Badi Twalib (Jomvu), Dan Wanyama (Webuye West) and David Njuguna (Olkalou).

Create Official Opposition in Parliament

Deputy President William Ruto has proposed the creation of the Official Opposition in Parliament.

He said the current formulation undermines executive accountability and saddles “our democracy with a headless, incoherent and dysfunctional opposition.”

Dr Ruto noted that it was not proper that the leader of a party garnering the second highest votes had no formal constitutional role.

“Elections in Kenya are close-run contest. Often enough, the winner and runner-up achieve more than five million votes. The winner ascends to a formally constituted leadership role while the runner-up becomes a virtual stranger in leadership,” he said while addressing Chatham House, London, on Friday.

Deputy President William Ruto has proposed for the creation and recognition of the official opposition in Parliament

However, the Deputy President said it will be up to Kenyans to decide if they want a change in the constitution.

To tame the winner-takes-all formation, and therefore allow the opposition to actively take part in the running of the country, Dr Ruto proposed an ambitious reconfiguration of the government to comprise the national executive and the official opposition

He said the leader of the party which comes second becomes the leader of the opposition and with his or her running mate, automatically become Members of Parliament, and assume leadership of the Official Opposition.

“This formula should apply at the county level. I further propose that with the Leader of Opposition taking leadership of the opposition in Parliament, the Deputy President should then take over the Leadership of Government Business in Parliament. This should be replicated with the Deputy Governor at the counties,” he added.

He said the Senate should be elevated into an Upper House with Cabinet Secretaries becoming ex-officio Members of Parliament where they can attend a session every week to respond to issues raised.

The Deputy President said the move was aimed at connecting the legislature and the executive and, therefore, boost service delivery to Kenyans.

Dr Ruto, however, insisted that Cabinet Secretaries should not be picked from among the Members of Parliament.

He said despite some challenges such as overlapping and duplication of functions, gains had been made since the promulgation of the constitution in 2010.

“It has placed emphasis on delivery, implementation and taken away the prerogative powers of the executive,” he noted.

Dr Ruto told the audience that the integration of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda into a single market had ushered in a new era where investors would freely move with their goods and services in the five-member bloc with limited restrictions.

He said engagements had started to have a single continental trade body that would further intra-African trade.

“The horizon holds much promise,” he said.

Set realistic targets, counties urged

County governments have been urged to set realistic own-source revenue targets and align their procurement plans to cashflow projections to free themselves from the pending bills burden.

Controller of Budget Agnes Odhiambo said counties also need to ensure all pending bills are properly budgeted in the ensuing financial year.

During the Intergovernmental Budget and Economic Council meeting chaired by Deputy President William Ruto

“Pending bills should be a first charge to the budget,” she said during the Intergovernmental Budget and Economic Council (IBEC) meeting, chaired by Deputy President William Ruto Tuesday.

Ms Adhiambo regretted that pending bills were resulting to high cost of good and services and eroding investor confidence.

As at June 2018, counties had a pending bill of Sh92.7 billion as compared to June 2015’s Sh37.7 billion.

The Controller of Budget noted that all was not gloomy as 15 counties had already fully budgeted for pending bills in the 2018/2019 financial year, with 23 having partly budgeted for the bills.

Moreover, a total of 34 counties had finalised the verification of their pending bills and factored in payments in the financial year.

Dr Ruto called on the Controller of Budget and the Auditor General to support the remaining 13 counties to finalise and honour their liabilities.

He urged counties to audit their pending bills and “any payments with no issues should be given a priority”.

“If it is payable and you (counties) are not honouring, that is in contravention of the Public Finance Management Act and it is punishable,” said Treasury CS Henry Rotich.

Mr Oparanya urged the Treasury to be releasing funds to counties in time so as to help check the rise in pending bills.

Brexit will not affect Kenya trade relations:UK

Britain has said that Brexit will not affect its trade relations with Kenya.

Penny Mordaunt, MP, Secretary of State for International Development and Minister for Women and Equalities said the current trade relations will be enhanced despite UK exiting the European Union.
 
Speaking during a meeting with Deputy President William Ruto at the Department of International Development, in London on Thursday, Ms Mordaunt assured Kenya that Brexit will not affect trade ties.

During a meeting with Penny Mordaunt at the Department for International Development London
“Brexit will not affect us. Technology can now help us engage in trading activities and has made things easier,” said Ms Mordaunt.
 
Dr Ruto said Kenya would continue to engage in activities that can enhance the existing cordial relations between the two countries.
 
Dr Ruto arrived in London Thursday morning for a two-day visit aimed at promoting cooperation between the two countries in various fields of interest including trade and investments.
 
Dr Ruto said relations between the two countries were of great benefit to their citizens.
 
Dr Ruto said Kenya would continue to enhance the existing good relations with Britain in areas of trade, tourism investment and continued partnership on the fight against extremism.
 
He praised the cordial relations and cooperation between the two countries in areas of trade and investment.
 
The Deputy President highlighted the economic relationship between the two countries, which is mutually beneficial with Britain being the largest source of tourists and several British companies having their presence in Kenya.

 
“The relations between Kenya and Britain are mutually beneficial, robust and friendly. This is why we want to continue enhancing it for the betterment of our citizens in terms of trade and investments,” said Dr Ruto.

Dr Ruto said Britain has also played a major role in the development of Mombasa Port’s infrastructure, roads, besides supporting trade not only in Kenya but Africa in general.
 
He said Kenya was also committed to working with Britain in addressing the issues of climate change and implementation of devolution in Kenya.

And while addressing a group of businesspeople at a London hotel, the Deputy President asked them to take advantage of existing trade opportunities in Kenya.
 
Dr Ruto is expected to among others deliver a lecture at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, commonly known as Chatham House.

The Chatham House lecture focuses on the Kenya’s national unity and regional integration, challenges of inclusion, growth and change.

The Deputy President also met  Mr George Hollingberry, MP, Minister of State for Trade Policy, Department of International Trade. Among those who accompanied him is Mr Manoah Esipisu, the Kenya’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdon.

Public entities must embrace openness

Action will be taken against public entities that have failed to make open their procurement, Deputy President William Ruto has said.

He said it was mandatory for all the entities to maintain, continuously update and publicise the procurement of public goods, works and services as contained in the Executive Order No. 2 of 2018.

The Deputy President called on the Treasury to forward the list of the outfits that had not adhered to the Order to the Head of Public Service within a month for action to be taken.

Public entities must embrace openness

“We would want to know the heads of these entities that are pulling us back, and action taken against them,” he said on Monday in Nairobi during the launch of the Kenya Open Government Partnership National Action Plan III 2018-2020.

Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich observed that openness and transparency in the government had resulted to increased public participation in the budget-making process.

“This has led to more oversight and, importantly, now our budget is more public interest-guided,” said Mr Rotich.

He said public entities that will fail to adhere to the Executive Order No. 2 of 2018 would not be able to access funds from the government.
The CS said Treasury was in the process of adopting an end-to-end solution to procurement that will make public tenders open to the public, thereby weed-out criminals from the process.

Present were the Speaker of the Senate Ken Lusaka, Vihiga Governor Wilber Ottichilo, Makueni Deputy Governor Adelina Mwau, Head of the Delegation of the European Union Stefano Dejak, United Nations Resident Coordinator Siddharth Chatterjee, among others.
 
Dr Ruto noted that with improved technology, public entities need to espouse less confidentiality, few secrets, more information and more openness.
 
“That is how progressive governments need to be; openness is necessary for inclusivity, informed participation, effective democracy and the holding of power to account,” he added.

He explained that although it started in 2011, the Open Government Partnership had become the pre-eminent international initiative committed to transparency, accountability and openness.
 
The Deputy President lauded Elgeyo-Marakwet, Makueni and Vihigacounties for taking up the initiative and called for more to subscribe to it so as to stimulate fact-based conversations in their respective areas of administration.
 
While urging the judiciary and other institutions, which are not already part of the Open Government Partnership, to make their commitments and join the march towards making Kenya an open society, Dr Ruto said the country had committed itself to “promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance.” 
 
“Anyone who has been in Kenya over the last year or two will attest that we are boldly and publicly living this commitment,” he noted.
 
Mr Dejak pledged to continue supporting Kenya as it strives to make open its operations. 
 
“The technological advancement in Kenya provides a good ground for the citizens to get information and cultivate open governance. Over time, this has led to accountable, inclusive and transparent leadership, thereby enhancing service delivery,” he said.
 
The Delegation of the European Union boss noted that through transparency and accountability, the working relationship between the judiciary, the executive and the legislature was growing stronger.
 
“These developments are a signal to the international community of Kenya’s intentions to reform its investment profile,” added Mr Dejak.
 
By subscribing to open governance, Mr Chatterjee said Kenya had set ground for better governance through technology “because the initiative encourages public scrutiny of government’s work”.

“The civil society and the media now need to educate the public about the importance of open data,” he said.

The Speaker of the Senate promised to fine-tune public participation so that it is not carried out as a ritual.

“We need to have a structured of public participation. We do not want it to be done for formality purposes. A bill is already in the Senate that will set a threshold for public participation,” noted Mr Lusaka.

The Makueni Deputy said the County had opened up to the public for scrutiny through the adoption of open contracting data standard, capacity building on open contracting, and improved transparency and accountability in public procurement processes.

These, she said, had helped deter fraud and corruption in the county.