Obama on state visit to Kenya & Ethiopia; lauds Africa as hub for global economic growth
US President Barack Obama’s Africa visit includes Kenya, making him the first US president to visit that country, where he highlighted at a Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi that incomes are up and the middle class is growing, thus creating incredible opportunities not only for African but the world at large, as Africa can propel global economic growth in its capacity as one of the fastest growing regions in the world.
US President Barack Obama promoted Africa as a hub for global economic growth during a four-day state visit to Kenya and Ethiopia to address terrorism, economic recovery and human rights.
“I wanted to be here because Africa is on the move,” Obama told more than 1,000 entrepreneurs, government officials and business leaders from about 120 countries at a Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, the first stop of his visit.
“Africa is one of the fastest growing regions in the world,” said the US President, after greeting delegates in Swahili.
“Incomes are up, the middle class growing. That creates incredible opportunities for Africans and the world,” he highlighted.
Obama acknowledged that access to capital remained difficult for many African entrepreneurs but stressed the “incredible progress that has been made” in the past decade.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said he hoped Obama’s visit would help change the image of an Africa that is dominated by poverty, civil war and terrorism.
“Let them know that Africa is open and ready for business,” Kenyatta told Obama. “We have truly embraced the private sector. We are firmly and irreversibly aligned to progress.”
Kenya, East Africa’s largest economy, expects 6.5% GDP growth this year. But, repeated attacks by the Islamist terrorist group al-Shabaab, which have killed more than 500 people in the past two years in Kenya, have dampened the country’s tourism industry, a key revenue earner, as well as slowed down the influx of foreign investment.
Corruption also remains a major problem: Kenya, which, with 45 million citizens, is one of Africa’s most populous nations, ranks 145 out of 175 countries, according to advocacy group Transparency International’s corruption index, on which the lower the rank, the worse the corruption.
Another stumbling block to economic development is persistent electricity shortages. The US government’s Power Africa project, supported by the European Union and World Bank, seeks to inject 7 billion dollars into Sub-Sahara Africa to provide 60 million additional homes and businesses with power.
The United States hopes to lure American investors to East Africa with broad-based investments into the business, humanitarian and security sectors.
These are also aimed at counterbalancing the rising influence of China, which has launched major infrastructure projects in the region.
After his address at the summit, Obama is expected to meet with representatives of the US embassy in Nairobi, where more than 200 people were killed during a 1998 terrorist attack.
He is then scheduled to hold talks with Kenyatta, followed by a state dinner, to which some of Obama’s Kenyan relatives, including step-grandmother Sarah Obama, might be invited.
Obama received dozens of family members for dinner in his Nairobi hotel on Friday after his plane touched down at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in the homeland of his late father.
Obama is the first sitting US president to ever visit Kenya and the first to visit Ethiopia and address the African Union.
The visit is expected to relaunch the bilateral relationship with Kenya after Washington was widely understood to have opposed the candidacy of Kenyatta in 2013 because of charges he was facing over 2007 post-election violence at the International Criminal Court. Ultimately, Kenyatta won the election, and the charges against him were dropped in December.