President Barack Obama on Saturday celebrated Africa’s growth and potential while opening a business summit in Kenya, the East African nation where he has deep family connections.
The Global Entrepreneurship Summit, co-sponsored by the United States and Kenya at the United Nations headquarters in Gigiri, was convened by Julie Gichuru, a local TV host and entrepreneur who declared Kenya a “hotbed of budding entrepreneurs” and Obama a “son of Kenyan soil.”
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta expressed hope that Obama’s visit would help change attitudes about the country and continent. He lamented the nation’s natural and man-made calamities and its terrorism challenges, including the 2013 attack on an upscale mall in Nairobi.
Obama followed Kenyatta onto the stage, receiving praise and applause from the crowd gathered in a large auditorium. He highlighted the country’s advances in the production and distribution of electricity.
“[Our] Power Africa initiative has been leveraging private capital to invest in electrification all across the continent,” Obama said, according to a White House statement. “And our preliminary goal was 10,000 megawatts; now we’re looking at 30,000 megawatts, and we’re well on our way.”
Obama, who laid a wreath at Memorial Park in downtown Nairobi, the site of the 1998 U.S. Embassy bomb blast, said that some of America’s closest partners are in Africa.
“The challenges of terrorism are ones that have to be addressed, but the opportunities for growth and prosperity, and people-to-people exchanges, and tourism, and scientific and educational exchanges— those are the things that the people of Africa are most hungry for, and no place better exemplifies the possibilities and opportunities than Kenya, which has grown at an extraordinary pace over the last decade and has been able to make a transition away from ethnicity and division towards an increasing sense of national unity, which I think has contributed to this growth,” Obama said.
After the summit, Obama held bilateral talks at the Statehouse with Kenyatta and his Cabinet members.
He arrived in Nairobi late Friday and spent the evening reuniting and connecting with members of his father’s family.