President Obama Makes Historic Visits to Kenya and Ethiopia

President Barack Obama has just completed historic visits to Kenya and Ethiopia.  This was the first time that a sitting U.S. president had visited either country.

On July 25, President Obama and President Kenyatta opened the 6th annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES), co-hosted by the United States and the Government of Kenya.  The President announced new commitments to promote entrepreneurship as a driver for economic growth, social inclusion, and secure communities.   This was the first time this summit was held in sub-Saharan Africa, and highlighted the entrepreneurial dynamism of the continent.

GES brought together approximately 1,000 outstanding entrepreneurs and investors from across the world for dynamic, outcome-oriented sessions; mentoring; and opportunities to showcase their work.  With a strong focus on African-based solutions, the summit showcased how investors and entrepreneurs from other regions of the world can connect with the continent in new ways.

In his keynote address to summit participants, the President said:  “…everywhere I go, across the United States and around the world, I hear from people, but especially young people, who are ready to start something of their own — to lift up people’s lives and shape their own destinies.  And that’s entrepreneurship.”

Backing up these words of support for entrepreneurship, President Obama announced over $1 billion in new commitments from banks, foundations, philanthropists, and the U.S. Government.  Half of this money will be designated to support youth and women entrepreneurs.

After leaving Kenya, President Obama travelled to Ethiopia where he also made history as the first serving U.S. president to visit the African Union (AU), which is headquartered in Addis Ababa.    During his July 28 address to the AU, he praised the African Union’s leadership across the continent.  He noted that the AU is playing a key role in countering threats from terrorist groups ranging from Al-Shabab in Somalia to Boko Haram in West Africa.  At the same time, the AU has a leading role in addressing political, economic and health crises in member states.

During his remarks, the President made a strong appeal to African leaders to respect presidential term limits, fight corruption in government, support democracy and promote respect for human rights. President Obama also stressed the importance of working together on climate change, telling AU members, “I urge Africa to join us in rejecting old divides between North and South so we can forge a strong global climate agreement this year in Paris.” And referring to the enormous potential of the continent’s youth, President Obama said, “History shows that the nations that do best are the ones that invest in the education of their people…And Africa’s young people are ready to compete.”

President Obama’s visits to Kenya and Ethiopia came less than a year after he hosted the first-ever African leaders’ summit in Washington, D.C.  During his stops in Kenya and Ethiopia, the President made clear that the United States is committed to strengthen its economic partnerships with the emerging nations of the continent while also supporting the aspirations of Africa’s people, especially its women and youth.