Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good Afternoon. And, as we traditionally say here in Kenya, Karibuni; feel welcome.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me take this early opportunity to state how delighted we are to have all of you with us. Your decision to attend this Forum is a testimony of the confidence you have in our beloved country and the people of Kenya.

It is in this context I would like to encourage you, to seize the opportunity to enjoy the best Nairobi has to offer.

Let me also at this early moment recognize my very good friend and brother, President Kagame. We do not take your presence for granted knowing how busy you are working hard to transform the lives of your citizens. Your presence with us, therefore, attests to the critical significance of today’s meeting.

Indeed, let me emphasize that this meeting is not only important but urgent.

Why do I say it is urgent? I say so because we are coming together, at a time when our Continent is faced with incredible opportunity, but at the same time, it is faced with profound threats in almost equal measure in terms of food insecurity and youth unemployment problem. Therefore, to broach a discussion that speaks to the daily realities of millions of Africa’s citizens is, by any measure, important.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Across the Continent, hundreds of millions of people live as men and women of the soil: tilling the land to eke out a living for themselves and for their families.

The vast majority … seventy percent … of Africans either directly or indirectly derive their livelihood from agriculture. And across the Continent we depend on agriculture to enhance food security and nutrition.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In the shadow of a shared, pervasive, continental challenge of youth unemployment, and in the wake of a ‘demographic dividend’ versus ‘ticking time-bomb’ debate, agriculture also provides an avenue for all our nations to open up opportunities for decent jobs, and dignified lives to millions of African youth.

Now, as a Continent we all know the significance of this sector. We understand that it is not just the backbone of our national economies it is the bread and butter of our people.

We are aware that growth in agriculture is up to 11 times more effective at reducing poverty than growth in any other sector.

And we recognize that until this sector is transformed, our hopes for industrialization, for a flourishing manufacturing sector, will be little more than a pipe dream.

That is why we all, as a Continent, stood in agreement during the Malabo Declaration, to usher in Africa’s Agenda 2063. The agenda emphasizes the need to invest in agriculture.

That is why we are here — because we cannot, in good conscience, do anything less than our best to build a robust and resilient agricultural sector in all our countries. And, we should admit, we have been making steady progress.

Increasingly, we are seeing greater private sector investment in agriculture. We are witnessing the rise of agri-business initiatives, governments are paying attention to the policy needs of the agricultural sector and farmers as a whole.

Every day farmers are proving how much they can achieve when given access to high quality seeds, and fertilizers, and a market.

Our progress is a partial fulfillment of our continent’s potential, and of the past promises we have made as leaders of this great Continent.

We pledged in Malabo to pursue a future of prosperity that is led by agriculture. We promised to double our 2014 agricultural productivity levels by the year 2025. We vowed to make agriculture a multi-trillion dollar industry.

Together, we outlined a bold and daring vision for our Continent. Now, we must take bold actions to give effect to our shared dream.

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As I move to close, let me propose three such steps for your consideration: First: I call on us to collectively agree to streamline our national plans and strategies so that they clearly align to our Malabo commitments, and to give specific time frames in which this will happen.

Delegates, it is clear that without integrating our shared continental vision into our respective domestic policies, we will not only hold back one another, more significantly, we will keep our citizens from experiencing a range of benefits.

Second, we all committed to the goal of increasing financing for agriculture. Today, let us make that commitment specific. I propose we pledge to mobilise at least $400 billion of public and private sector investment over the next five years. With goodwill and partnership, this is more than possible. Delegates, let us make it happen.

Third, I propose that we make a greater push for accountability by creating a continental agricultural performance scorecard. A scorecard to measure and track our progress against all of the commitments we agree to here in Nairobi, and those previously made through the Malabo and such other forums.

Delegates, I believe these three practical steps forward are not only reasonable, but do-able. More importantly, they are extremely beneficial to our people and hence the reason why we cannot fail to implement them.

In fact, I am certain that together we can and will make bigger pledges and bolder commitments. And it is in the spirit of that conviction that, today I commit the Kenya Government to invest KSh2 billion, equivalent to US Dollar 200 million over the next five years. This support is intended to enable 150,000 young farmers and agriculture entrepreneurs gain access to markets, finance and insurance, improving access to modern machinery and other agriculture technology, and increasing value addition and agro-processing in our country.

This commitment is just one way, our way, of actualizing the spirit of the Malabo declaration. But Brothers and Sisters, Colleagues, Partners, Friends of Africa — the more important question is what will we do together; what ambitious measures will we take?

I am confident that as this meeting unfolds, those questions will give due urgency to our dialogue and impetus to our expected final outcomes. As always, I look forward with great confidence to all that we will achieve both now and hereafter, together.

With those remarks, it is now my profound pleasure to declare this forum officially open.

Thank You.