Obama sees entrepreneurs as Kenya’s 'strong hope'

Speaking in Nairobi at the US-sponsored entrepreneurship summit Obama told that African entrepreneurs could help counter "poverty and extremism" through supporting entrepreneurship

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

US President Barack Obama argued on Saturday that African entrepreneurs could assist in countering violent ideologies and promoting global growth by creating opportunities in Africa.

Speaking in the Global Entrepreneurship Summit Obama further argued that governments must ensure that the rule of law is upheld by directly tackling corruption.

"Africa is one of the fastest growing regions in the world. People are being lifted out of poverty, incomes are up, the middle class is growing, and young people like you are harnessing technology to change the way Africa is doing businesses”

“This continent needs to be a future hub of global growth, not just African growth," Obama stated in the summit, a US-sponsored initiative to improve business relations with Africa.

Current Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta called the United States a "very strong supporter of Kenya" and said his country, which suffered from numerous attacks by Somali-based al-Qaeda affiliated al-Shabaab militants, required assistance to tackle security threats. "No single country can deal with this problem," he said in talks with Obama. 

"The challenges of terrorism are ones that have to be addressed, but the opportunities for growth and prosperity are the things that the people of Africa are most hungry for," Obama told Kenyatta.

"Entrepreneurship offers a positive alternative to the ideologies of violence and division that can all too often fill the void when young people don't see a future for themselves." Obama stated.

He argued that the government had a vital role on issues such as establishing the rule of law and diminishing corruption, more has to be done to help new firms secure capital.

A number of companies, particularly in technological advances, have started up in recent years in Africa in a bid to shift the continent away from a traditional focus of commodity exports, but entrepreneurs have often complained about not finding affordable capital.

"Africa is open for business," Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta, current President of Kenya, said in his opening at the summit in which he welcomed the US president. "It is the time for a new generation of Africans to promote inclusive prosperity."

Kenya’s economy is believed to increase by about 6 percent, including Ethiopia’s economy, Obama’s next stop, is expected to grow by more than 10 percent, but Ethiopian rights groups claim that their country’s economic improvements are at the expense of free speech.

Obama further stated in the summit that no government should discriminate against its citizens based on sexual orientation and that treating people differently eroded freedom and then "bad things happen."

Kenyatta replied that America shared many values but not on all issues, saying gay rights was “not an issue for his people”.

The US president will later pay tribute to victims and survivors of the 1998 bombing by al-Qaeda militants at the US Embassy in Nairobi, resulting in the embassy’s relocation to a site near the city’s UN compound.

Obama will hold talks with Kenyatta on Saturday evening before attending a state dinner to discuss security and counterterrorism cooperation.

US President Barack Obama was reunited with his estranged father’s family after arriving to Kenya’s capital on Friday, making him the first sitting US president to visit East African nations.

The president spent his first evening in Kenya with his family, including his elderly step-grandmother, Sarah Obama, who traveled to Nairobi from her rural village to meet her relative.

"Proud to be the first American president to visit Kenya. Happy to see family, and to talk with young Kenyans about the future," Obama wrote on his Twitter account after arriving and meeting members of his extended family for dinner.

US and Kenyan flags welcomed the president from the airport along the main road including billboards advertising Obama’s four day long trip.

"I don't think that Kenyans think of Obama as African-American. They think of him as Kenyan-American," said EJ Hogendoorn, deputy program director for Africa at the International Crisis Group.

The US president has been outspoken regarding his life without his Kenyan-born father and stated that he felt “the weight of that absence”. He became involved in a White House initiative to support young men of color who face similar circumstances, which he plans to continue after leaving the White House.

Obama has used his father’s struggle to overcome corruption in Africa as a method to encourage leaders to enhance democracies.

TRTWorld and agencies