Jamhuri Day is the most significant day in our national calendar, because it reminds us of the time in 1963 when Kenya attained her independence from colonial rule.
As a nation, we remember and acknowledge the important role played by our freedom fighters, some of whom paid the ultimate price in the struggle for our independence. To them we owe the duty to ensure that their dreams of a united, peaceful, prosperous and truly independent state are achieved.
It is therefore fitting that on such an occasion we reflect on the journey we have travelled. We reflect on how we have overcome the challenges of fighting poverty, ignorance and disease as envisioned by our founding fathers.
Ten years ago, when I took office, we promised to make Kenya a prosperous and working nation. We also emphasised that nation building was not the responsibility of the Government alone and that indeed all Kenyans had a role to play in rebuilding our country.
When I reflect on our progress, I am happy of the achievements we have attained together. Our development efforts have been guided by two main blueprints, the Economic Recovery Strategy for Wealth and Employment Creation, and the Kenya VISION TWENTY THIRTY.
In 2002, our economy was facing very serious challenges. The Economic Recovery Strategy formed the basis for our economic revival efforts.
Through focused leadership and sheer hard work by Kenyans across our country, in a period of five years, we were able to achieve a GDP growth rate of seven percent by the year 2007.
Despite the global and local challenges we experienced in 2008, the Grand Coalition Government was able to steer the country to recovery and the economy recorded four and a half percent growth rate last year, with growth being projected at five percent this year.
As a nation we can confidently say that the foundation to move Kenya into a middle income country by TWENTY THIRTY has been firmly laid. The journey towards the transformation of our country is on course.
On the economic front, our main achievements have been in the areas of agriculture, infrastructure development, increased tax revenues, financial inclusivity and ICT development.
The agricultural sector which is the backbone of our economy has seen major developments over the last ten years. The sector has grown from a growth rate of negative three percent to about six percent. Poverty levels have reduced from 56 percent to 46 percent. Food security levels
have also improved. In addition, numerous public institutions in the agricultural sector have been revived.
To reduce reliance on rain-fed production, the Government has rehabilitated and expanded irrigation schemes such as Bura, Hola, West Kano, Mwea, Nzoia, Ahero and Katilu. This has increased area under irrigation by about 150,000 hectares. In addition, new schemes have been created in the Yala Swamp, Turkana, Kibwezi, Masinga and Kiambere, among others.
Infrastructure development has been a key focus for the Government. We were driven by the conviction that improved road, railway and air transport networks as well as expansion of energy and telecommunications facilitates the movement of goods and people across the country and our
region. This in turn increases trade and production. To this end, roads have been constructed, expanded and rehabilitated, the railway network has been revamped and airports have been modernized.
In addition, the capacity at our port of Mombasa has been increased and work has begun on the construction of a new port in Lamu. The new port is part of the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport project. LAPSSET, as the project is commonly known, will be more than a transport corridor; it will be a new economic development corridor that will open up vast areas in the northern part of our country. It will also fast track our regional integration efforts by linking us with our two neighbours, South Sudan and Ethiopia. In the energy sector, we have increased electricity connections from 600,000 to over 2 million connections.
Our development efforts have been made possible because an expanded economy has enlarged the tax base. Kenyans have also heeded to my call to pay their taxes. You will recall that ten years ago, our national budget was 250 billion shillings, and our tax revenues were 180 billion shillings. We depended on donor funding to finance a large part of our national budget. In the last ten years, we have been able to significantly increase our tax revenues to over 700 billion shillings. We are now able to fund over 95 percent of our Government budget from local sources.
This economic independence is a key achievement that Kenyans should be very proud of. We are now in control of our economic destiny and able to make important economic decisions that will improve the lives of our people. We are also able to collaborate with our development partners to finance additional programmes.
On financial inclusivity, when I came into office, about 1 million people had access to financial services. Now, over 20 million Kenyans have access to financial services, a majority through the revolutionary mobile money solutions developed by Kenyans working with telecommunications companies. Expansion of banking services to all parts of our country has led to increased access to credit by our small and medium size enterprises.
Kenya has made great strides in I.C.T. In 2003, there were less than a million mobile phones in Kenya. Today, we have about 30 million Kenyans using mobile phones. Internet users rose from 250,000 to over 14 million today. From just a handful of broadcasters today we have 19 television stations and 81 radio stations.
This growth of I.C.T. has been accompanied by the creation of thousands of jobs for our people. In order to take the I.C.T. industry to the next level, the Government will soon commence development of Konza Techno City.
Although these achievements in the economic front are commendable, much more needs to be done in order for us to achieve the transformation that we seek. Our farmers need to focus their attention on moving their activities from purely subsistence to commercial. Farming must be seen as a business with the goal of producing surplus crops and animals for sale. This will improve our farmers' livelihoods and increase our food production, hence improving food security in our country.
In addition, farming activities need to be mechanized in order to improve productivity. Kenya also needs to rapidly industrialize. No country has achieved sustained economic growth without industrialization.
In the financial sector, I encourage Kenyans to develop a savings culture. No matter how little you are able to start with, it is important that we all regularly save a portion of our income. Indeed, "Haba na haba, hujaza kibaba". Increased domestic savings will boost our economy by providing resources for credit as well as secure individuals and families during emergencies.
In the social sector, we have made great strides in education, health, water, and sanitation. In the area of education we initiated the free and compulsory primary education. This programme has been a huge success with close to 10 million of our children enjoying access to basic education.
Five years ago, we introduced free secondary school tuition. The result of these initiatives has seen our transition rate from primary to secondary school dramatically rise from 42 percent to over 70 percent.
Tertiary education has also expanded over the last 10 years. We now have seven Public Universities, twenty four University Constituent Colleges and fifteen chartered private universities. In addition, the Government now offers free tuition for youth polytechnics to attract youth to seek gainful technical skills.
As a nation, we have made great strides in health. HIV/AIDS transmission rates have declined and the Government has facilitated the provision of antiretroviral drugs. Ten years ago just 10,000 Kenyans had access to life saving A.R.V. drugs compared to the current 500,000. Over 20 million mosquito nets have been distributed averting a malaria endemic in the last 7 years.
In the water sector, the Government has reformed the management of water and sanitation services. Today 65 percent of the Kenyan people have access to piped water compared to 38 percent ten years ago. Major efforts have also been made in water conservation. Our major water towers are being rehabilitated and future generations are assured of this valuable resource. Indeed, tree cover in the country has improved from 2 percent in 2003 to 6 percent this year.
A secure environment is the foundation of our national development efforts. I would like to assure Kenyans that the Government is fully committed to providing adequate security for our people, visitors and their property.
The ongoing reforms in the security sector will enhance the capacity of our security agencies to provide swift and adequate services to our people. In the recent past, we have faced security challenges from hostile elements who are agents of international terrorist networks. This is the reason we launched Operation Linda Nchi with the overall objective of protecting our territorial integrity. This Operation has made significant progress and our troops are now part of the African Union Mission in Somalia.
Within the country, we have also taken steps to reduce incidents of crime and lawlessness, including terrorist attacks, cattle rustling and re-emergence of criminal gangs. This is a critical time in our nation's history and as the Commander-In-Chief; I wish to assure Kenyans that the
Government will deal decisively with any person or group engaging in criminal activities. We will not let a few individuals distract our nation from the goal of living in a peaceful and harmonious environment.
To this end, I call upon Kenyans to cooperate with all our security agencies by giving information that will prevent crime and aid the apprehension and prosecution of law breakers. I commend all members of our security forces for their continued hard work in securing our country.
One of my most memorable moments during my ten year tenure as your President was the promulgation of our new Constitution. After more than 20 years, we were able to put in place a new Constitution developed and approved by Kenyans. The Government has faithfully implemented provisions of the new Constitution as laid out in the Sixth Schedule.
As a result, we have seen the reform of the Judiciary and creation of important public institutions. The executive will continue supporting the Judiciary to enhance its capacity and entrench the ongoing reforms.
In addition, this Constitution, has paved way for devolution. As Kenyans enjoy the freedoms enshrined in the Constitution, I urge them to respect the rule of law as this is the foundation of our current and future development. I also call upon each one of us to promote peace and national unity in all our areas of influence. We should be free to disagree and hold divergent opinions but as we do so, we must remain both peaceful and united. Indeed, our unity in diversity is our greatest strength.
The developments that I have enumerated which we have achieved in the last 10 years have laid the foundation for the economic, social and political transformation of our country. Kenya is now at the edge of a take-off to greater prosperity, equity, and unity. We must keep our eyes on the goal
of building a great Kenya for present and future generations. It will be the responsibility of county and national leaders, working with all citizens, to ensure that this growth momentum is maintained. They must also harness the enormous potential of the resources and people of Kenya.
Kenyans should therefore elect honest, visionary and hardworking leaders who have the concerns of Kenya at heart in the next General Election. In this regard, I urge Kenyans to take advantage of the remaining one week and register as voters in order to participate in the forthcoming General Election. Registering to vote will enable you to carry out your civic duty of electing your leaders. You will also be choosing the policies by which you will be governed. Thus, registering to vote will enable you to participate in strengthening our democracy. Most importantly, registering to vote gives you the power to determine the future and destiny of Kenya.
Finally, I take this opportunity to wish all Kenyans peaceful and blessed holidays, a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year. Kindly take time to reach out to your fellow Kenyans who may be in distress and help them share the joy of the festive season.
Today, also marks the beginning of our Golden Jubilee year which will culminate in the celebrations of our 50 years of independence in December next year. Let us therefore take time in the forthcoming year to focus our attention on the Almighty God, who has graciously watched over our nation over the years and let us also offer a helping hand to the needy.
Asanteni na Mungu Aibariki Kenya.