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Date:

August 30, 2000

Subject:

Kenya President Urges Clinton for Ag Biotech Cooperation

 

TEXT of letter from Kenya President Moi to U.S. President Bill Clinton


21 August, 2000

Excellency, I convey to you and to the American people warm greetings. I
recall with great pleasure our recent meeting in Washington at the Summit
on Africa when we had the opportunity to exchange views on a wide range of
issues of mutual interest.

I wish to take this opportunity to write to you on a matter of great
interest to my people and country. As you know, Kenya is basically an
agricultural country and farming provides the basic needs for our families
and communities. Yet in the face of growing population and environmental
challenges, current farming methods are proving incapable of meeting our
requirements for food security and economic growth. It is therefore
imperative that we in Kenya embrace appropriate technologies and policies
to transform our agricultural system to become more productive and
profitable. It is in this context that we must view the new developments
in biotechnology as offering great hope and promise.

While the Green Revolution was a remarkable success in Asia it largely
bypassed Africa. Today the international community is on the verge of the
biotechnology revolution which Africa cannot afford to miss.

The recent announcement of a vitamin-A enriched rice (golden rice) offers
great potential for all of us to address the issues of malnutrition and
human health, particularly for poor children and for nations which are
major consumers of the commodity. I understand that this important
invention was developed with assistance from the government of Switzerland
and the Rockefeller Foundation. While enriched rice could offer some
benefit to our population, the staple crop in this region is maize.

Africa therefore needs a similar programme for the development of "golden
maize". Scientific evidence indicates that deficiency in Vitamin-A weakens
the immune system. Sufficient intake of Vitamin-A can improve ability to
cope with the effects of chronic disease and may reduce the incidence of
infections like malaria. Such as programme would also meet the objectives
of the First Lady's Global Vitamin-A Partnership effort. I would therefore
be grateful if you could join me in the endorsement of this idea to
explore possibilities whereby United States technical and financial
resources could be committed to this important endeavor.

Africa risks a biotechnology gap if we fail to participate in this project
just in the same way that concern has been expressed about the digital gap
in information technology without which deliberate intervention may result
in a further marginalization of our continent. I am therefore specifically
requesting that support and co-operation of your government and private
foundations to help us to respond to the challenge of closing the
biotechnology gap.

If we, as Kenyans, are to fully participate in this exciting revolution,
we must develop our local capacity to address our unique needs for
increased food production among our small scale farmers. Thus, support for
biotechnology training programmes, curriculum development and improvement
of laboratories is urgently needed. We note that a USAID-funded program in
Egypt has been instrumental in building Egypt's biotechnology capacity.
This has had the positive effect of augmenting that country's
participation in international debates on biotechnology, such as the
biosafety protocol of the Convention on Biological Diversity. I would like
to propose that we explore opportunities for support as an additional
agenda item in our forthcoming discussions.

Ambassador Andrew Young during his visit to Kenya recently, informed me of
a promising U.S. private - public initiative named "Healthy Harvest" which
will focus on application of biotechnology in Africa. Through this
initiative I look forward for fast realization of this vision and would
like Kenya to be among the first participants in this worthwhile venture.

Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.

(signed) Daniel T. arap Moi
President of the Republic of Kenya

His Excellency William Jefferson Clinton President of the United States of
America Washington, D.C.

End Text.