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Raila back, to brief Kenyans on trip

NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 26 – Prime Minister Raila Odinga returned to the country on Sunday after a two-week mission abroad to woo investments, seek support for the country in various fields and update the international community on changes in Kenya.

On arrival, the PM said implementation of the Constitution took priority and appealed to Members of Parliament to prepare to work overtime to pass outstanding laws for the country to meet the set Constitution implementation timelines.

The PM was expected to brief the country on Monday particularly on the final leg of his trip, which ended in France with the launch of the Paris-Nairobi Initiative on Access to Clean Energy for Africa and other countries vulnerable to Climate Change.

The PM began his engagement abroad by opening the Africa Investment Conference in New York City on April 11.

The investment conference, organised by the Government of Kenya in partnership with a US-based organization, Institutional Investor, was judged as hugely successful.  It attracted about 500 reputable firms that are keen to venture into or expand their operations in Africa and are keen on what Kenya has to offer.

The PM made a strong case for investing in Kenya, calling on US businesses to take advantage of programmes in infrastructure and legal and constitutional reforms and set up base in the country.

He emphasised that the country was moving towards economic take-off and businesses that move in today would reap huge rewards in the near future.

The PM also met the American Business Council for further discussions on investment opportunities in Kenya.

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Out of these talks, some firms, notably Coca Cola and General Electric made strong commitments to increase their operations in Kenya by locating regional offices serving huge sections of the continent in Nairobi.

The PM was optimistic that in the coming months, more American businesses will make follow-up trips to Kenya for an experience of the country’s promises.

Mr Odinga also met US Vice President Joe Biden at the White House on the April 12 where they discussed changes taking place in Kenya and in the region.

He used the meeting with Mr Biden and other leaders, including Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Florida Governor Rick Scott to appeal directly to the top US leadership to urge American firms to invest in Kenya.

Mr Biden assured the PM and his delegation of continued support for the reform process and urged for a faithful implementation of the Constitution. The Vice President echoed his country’s appreciation that Kenya has moved towards greater stability. He emphasised the need for the country to stay focused particularly on judicial and electoral reforms.

Mr Odinga assured the VP that Nairobi shared the view in Washington that a functional and independent Judiciary is a critical consideration for investors who want to set up operations in any foreign location.

Mr Biden pledged that America would give Kenya “tremendous support” in areas that are critical to the country’s growth. He assured the delegation that the US recognises that while the reforms carry promise for Kenya, they also cost more.

Similar assurances and interest in Kenya were expressed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Africa and the Black Congressional Caucus during meetings with the PM and his delegation at Capitol Hill.

Mr Odinga also held productive talks with former US President Bill Clinton in New York, who pledged more support for initiatives meant to protect the environment in Kenya.

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Mr Clinton particularly expressed interest in supporting programmes that would reduce pressure on forests and protect water towers and water bodies.

While in the US, the PM also witnessed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University. The MOU will see the two institutions collaborate in areas of technology, engineering, nursing among other areas.

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