Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen.
As I have said many a time before, I have an unfulfilled ambition to be a teacher. And what I learnt from that profession many years ago is this: no matter the language, in the event of doubt, the most appropriate response to any salutation is an echoing back of the greeting. So let us try again:
Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen!
This is a time to celebrate and recognize the men and women who have put in tremendous effort to transform our economy in the face of numerous challenges. It is a time to continue to encourage you to aspire to become successful regional, continental and global businesses which will be wooed by investors from the world over. This is why the dress code for this event is decidedly black tie and evening wear. As we heard from Paul Kinuthia of InterConsumer Products at the Top100 Conference yesterday, when you become a successful business, the investors who are keen on investing or buying your business will fly you in business class and fete you in top hotels in London, New York, Paris and Tokyo. We want you to get practice through these events so that you will be comfortable and engage in negotiations with ease when that time comes. Paul's company was the winner of the inaugural Top100 Survey six years ago and he has now sold that business for a tidy sum and moved on to other business initiatives. He has so much to share and my prayer is that many more of you will achieve even greater success and come back to share lessons with us.
The Top100 gala dinner is an event I deeply enjoy because it aligns with five passions I deeply care about.
The first of these is education and mentoring. As a beneficiary of education and mentoring myself, in school and beyond, I have a deep conviction that our problem of inequality can be overcome through concerted efforts to enable every Kenyan to access quality education to the highest level of their ability. This, together with mentoring, is what will create capacity for equitable development and transformation of the economy, including building a critical mass of entrepreneurs. Today we are not only celebrating success in entrepreneurship, we are also celebrating businesses that are contributing to supporting education through Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives, and mentoring others so that they too can sit in this room in the future and be celebrated for their contribution to growing our economy.
My second pursuit, and unashamedly so, is women. Yesterday we took time to recognize the women business leaders contributing to the success of Top100 companies. I personally believe that we would do well as an economy and in our businesses if we put in deliberate efforts to grow women business leaders. I was brought up by women, taught to love by women and I know that when you put matters in their hands, they take care of business for generations, not for short-term profits. I encourage those of you who have overcome the many barriers we have put in your way to mentor others and share insights to create a community of women leaders. Above all, do not get in your own way by bringing some entitlement, cutting, stinging or repugnant attitude to your interaction with others, especially fellow women. Apply the intelligent, intuitively empathetic, gentle and very firm persuasive power that you are naturally endowed with. I want to be led by a woman and I am so glad that our chief guest this evening is a lady of outstanding ability and strength of character. I want to see more and more women in positions of leadership earned through merit. You have it within you and we will all be much better for it.
My third endeavour is business transformation. This is how I earn a living, this is what I believe will contribute to our realizing our national aspirations to be an industrialized, middle income economy. Government pretends to lead us but we know that businesses generate the resources that run the country. From the circular flow of income, we know that real economic activity is generated by households and businesses. Government sits in the middle as a facilitator and re-allocator of resources. For real transformation to be realized, we must expand our capacity for business, the space to do business, and make it much easier to generate the resources that every independent nation requires to run its affairs and take its place amongst the community of nations. It is business that will ultimately deliver true independence.
My fourth quest is that of public sector transformation. This is a quest I have pursued for nearly 20 years now since first engaging with Kenya Railways in the process of setting up Magadi Rail. The public sector is ubiquitous in our lives, our sleeping and our waking, the roads we drive on, the food we produce or eat, the schools our children go to, the health services we access, and ultimately our ability to run our businesses effectively. Our very lives depend on a proper functioning, effective, efficient, ethical, and innovative public sector. If we don't have that, our business efforts could be in vain as the resources we generate could be going into a black whole and not achieving the desired transformation. Even as we do business, we must find avenues to hold the public sector to account, to ensure the ethos of "public service" are understood and exemplified, and not those of "personal greed".
Which brings me to my other area of interest: that of developing civic competence, vigilance and engaging to deliver change within our own sphere of influence. Support your teams to understand the constitution, the laws and regulations, the governance continuum from policy to monitoring and evaluation, and encourage them to facilitate others through civic education. If we can all play our part, I have no doubt that the aspirations we set ourselves through this annual Top100 survey will be well within reach.
I wish you every success this evening and above all, a real celebration of your achievement, of life. Enjoy the evening.