Uhuru’s national Covid-19 conference speech

President Uhuru Kenyatta officially opens the National #COVID_19 Conference and sets the agenda for the meeting on September 28, 2020 at KICC/ PSCU

Fellow Leaders from across the entire spectrum of our society,

Our Clergy – the custodians of our faith,

Our vibrant private sector,

Our Media,

Our development partners,

Our ever vigilant civil society; and

You the People of Kenya, all, who have shown an unprecedented unity of purpose and a singular determination to prevail and bounce back better and stronger; Good afternoon.

It is with great pleasure that I welcome you all to this National COVID-19 Conference.

Today’s Conference shall review our national response in combating COVID-19 and chart our Nation’s future within this global fight against the Pandemic.

It is in this context that I invite you all to join in this national moment of taking stock, reflection, learning and planning.

This conference has the task of providing the nation with a trustworthy account of what we set out to do when this pandemic hit us six months ago; what we have achieved so far and what the consequences of our work has been.

This account is meant to give us a picture of what has worked, what has not and the reasons why? The primary purpose here is to tease out lessons learnt and ‘best practices’. But fundamentally, we are meant to ask ourselves whether we organized our resources in the most optimal way and whether we have mechanisms of ploughing back lessons learnt into future undertakings.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The ‘new normal’ can only be defined as a ‘known-unknown’.  That is, now we know the extent of COVID disruption and the kind of havoc it can wreck.  But we do not know how the disease will morph and how the ‘new normal’ will unfold. These remain unknown to us.

And if the ‘new normal’ is a ‘known-unknown’, then this must be a questioning conference.  The tone of this conference must be a questioning one.

I urge you to question everything we have done in the last six months in order to tease out what we need to plough back.

If we make this a questioning conference, I want to propose a five-point questioning framework to participants today.  This framework should guide us in understanding our performance and charting the way forward.

One, were we efficient in our approaches to this pandemic?  Can we say that our methods and undertakings delivered ‘value-for money’?  Are there lessons on how both human and financial resources could have been  ‘applied better’?  And how do we increase the value of our resources moving forward?

Two, were we effective in what we set out to do?  Can we ascertain the extent to which intended results were achieved in the last six months by the different agencies involved?

And is there a cause-effect relationship between the results we achieved and the resources we put into containing this crisis?

Three, were we sufficiently responsive to the unknown twists of this pandemic? And by responsiveness I mean, the ability of our agencies to anticipate and respond to the peculiar challenges of this pandemic with timely and appropriate action.

Have we built this ability and speed in our system as we de-escalate the COVID measures? This is a question I want us to ponder today.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The first three questions, in my suggested framework, are meant to assess the achievements of the last six months.  Allow me now to table two framework questions to guide our planning moving forward.

As we plan to face the ‘new normal’, we must pose the question whether the methods and approaches we used in the last six months are relevant today and for the future.  By relevance, I am inviting the conference to assess whether the mode of delivering our response to COVID-19 continues to make “sense” today.  Should we replicate it for future planning and what must we re-engineer after teasing out the lessons learnt?

My last framework question is about the appropriateness of our COVID interventions.  By appropriateness I am inviting the conference to reflect on whether our response to the pandemic was built on other existing platforms. And whether there was resonance with what the people wanted.

If our response to COVID resonated with the people, the interventions we built have a good chance of becoming sustainable.

And by sustainability I do not mean continuing the ‘investments’ we made; I mean creating a cumulative chain of benefits arising from what we did.

If this conference is guided by my suggested five-point framework of questions, I am persuaded that we will deliver a trustworthy account of what we did for the last six months.  But more importantly, the questions will tease-out lessons that will guide our future planning and engagements.

I am confident that if we continue to work together in tandem, and in the unity of purpose that has typified our joint efforts over the last six months, Kenya can, and will emerge from this crisis better and bounce back – stronger.  And to co-create the new normal, the consciousness of the entire nation MUST be called to order.

It is now my great pleasure to declare this Conference officially open and look forward to fruitful deliberations.

Thank You and God Bless You; and God Bless Kenya.

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