Let us all create value, empower society
Saturday December 10 2022
Speech of Dr Wilfred Kiboro, NMG Chairman, at the fourth edition of the Kusi Ideas Festival
Your Excellency the President of Kenya, Dr William Ruto, diplomats, distinguished panellists and participants from many parts of Africa and the world, welcome to the Fourth Edition of the Kusi Ideas Festival.
The Nation Media Group founded this Festival in 2019 to do mainly three things. First, to imagine an Africa and prepare us better to overcome its challenges and exploit its opportunities. Secondly, to catalyse pan-African conversations and ideas that help to make the best of Africa today, and generate actions to deal with its pressing problems. Thirdly, to contribute in finding and defining our continent’s place in the world, and present its best face there.
It wouldn’t be good manners to try and be the best judge of how well we have done, but results show that we have scored a decent grade. Our inaugural ideas festival was in Kigali, Rwanda, in 2019. Physically and online, we had tens of thousands of participants, and some of the novel ideas that came out there that we call “moonshots”, have reverberated across many forums since.
Among many, we’ve seen the thoughtful conversations on open skies in Africa become a reality a few days ago, when 17 African nations agreed to pilot the Single African Air Transport Market. These are Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda, South Africa, Cape Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Ghana, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, Zambia, Niger and Gabon. The ideas then, that some of us couldn’t understand, about using digital assets to monetise art, became a reality later in the form of non-fungible tokens that African artists have exploited to good effect. For the second one, in 2020, we opted to have it in Kenya, at the Victoria lakeside city of Kisumu, in early December, because of global Covid-19 lockdowns and travel restrictions.
It was a mixed virtual and in-person event, and we were delighted to have a few early travellers from countries like Rwanda and South Africa, as the world took its first tentative steps to re-opening. It was still a phenomenally successful event, by our reckoning, and easily the biggest such thought leadership event in Africa in that year. I am glad to report that a lot of the thinking about African Covid strategy, and collaboration on securing and distribution of vaccines, became the mainstay of the Africa CDC-African Union-led approach.
In 2021, we ventured further afield to
Accra, the capital of Ghana, and the home to pan-Africanism, from where we reached more than 17,000 virtual participants from 401 cities and 72 countries. Again, a lot of the policy actions proposed have grown wings. On this one I would like to note the idea of embedding climate change evaluations in financing, and green standards in permits. This has been possible because of our panellists. We have always been fortunate to attract resources and knowledgeable experts who work passionately on African issues. At this fourth festival, you have honoured our invitation and come in even larger numbers. We value you and look forward to drinking from your wisdom.
This year we are here in Karura Forest, to highlight its status as a monumental symbol of victory for an intense environmental struggle of the 1990s in Kenya. It is a perfect backdrop to the question of the climate change crisis we face. Sadly, it is also a reminder of one of the stark realities of one of the themes this festival will tackle — the spectre of disease caused by a changing climate. This festival was initially set to be held in the lakeside city of Entebbe in Uganda. However, it had to be moved at the last minute because the Ebola outbreak in Uganda presented regrettable logistic and safety problems that we couldn’t overcome. Nonetheless it is our hope that Kusi will still make its appointment with Uganda, the Pearl of Africa, in the near future.
With a different set of circumstances, we wouldn’t be meeting here. Karura might not have survived. We owe its survival to many brave Kenyan activists, some of whom paid the ultimate price for their action with prison, and death. Few of them stand as tall as Wangari Maathai, one of the world’s and Kenya’s most committed environmental and democracy activists. We lost Maathai in September 2011, seven years after she became the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. I am proud to point out that the Nation Media Group answered the call of duty and offered its muscle to bolster the campaign to save Karura. NMG was a key partner in a years-long project to raise funds for fencing 440 kilometres of the Aberdares Forest to save the water towers for Nairobi. This also contributed to reducing the human-wildlife conflict.
We have been part of several other actions, including dealing with the problem of plastics waste, promoting tree planting, and providing leadership in reporting the big environmental and climate change issues of our times. It is in this regard that I wish to announce here for the first time that this year we have established the Nation Media Foundation to partner with entities such as the Government of Kenya, development partners and corporate institutions to advance value creating initiatives in the areas of education and literacy, climate change, media development, health, community development through entrepreneurship and humanitarian relief.
We call upon all the partners who are here to join us in this endeavour of creating value and empowering our society. We estimate the monetary value of these activities so far to be in the billions of shillings.
Yet, nothing in this history would have prepared us for the climate change existential crisis we face today, and which makes it an urgent subject for our conversation over these two days.
Climate change is as important a reason as any for Africa to come together. Our shared lakes and rivers are either overflowing and causing disastrous floods, or drying out and plunging tens of millions of our people in hunger.
In the Horn of Africa alone, which includes Kenya, nearly 15 million are facing starvation. Ports that serve landlocked nations are threatened by rising sea levels in the face of rising temperatures.
It was cause for joy to see that among the first series of actions of your relatively new government, Your Excellency, was the launch of an ambitious plan to increase Kenya country’s forest cover from 12.13 percent to 30 percent, and a push to growing 15 billion trees on about 10.6 million hectares of land throughout the country.
This is how we win the battles to save our planet from irreparable damage by climate change. However, winning the war will need more, and the work of all of us as Kenyans, as Africans, and as global citizens.
On our part, we formed the Nation Media Foundation, a non-profit organisation, that will allow us to generate resources to bring more Africans into these important conversations. I am appealing to our partners, and everyone else, to support us on this journey.
Though it is a worthy journey, it won’t be an easy one. As the African proverb says, “There are no shortcuts to the top of the palm tree.”
Our hope is that Kusi 4 will offer some ideas on how we get there, and build a coalition that pushes us further up on the palm tree.
So, let’s all rally to that cause.
I thank you.