NAIROBI, Kenya, May 12 – In the face of criticism for planning to visit his father’s homeland as a sitting US Head of State, President Barack Obama has maintained that he will make the trip to Kenya in July.
Speaking to a group of entrepreneurs drawn from across the world at the White House on Monday, President Obama said promoting transformative entrepreneurship among women and youth the world over, is a critical part of his administration’s diplomatic agenda and the sixth Global Entrepreneurship Summit to be held in Nairobi in July, and which he is expected to attend, is in line with that policy.
“There are brilliant young people and hard working women and innovative thinkers in communities all around the world but they haven’t been given the chance yet and together we can make sure that anybody who’s got the creativity and drive to work hard no matter where they come from, what they look like, what their background is, they get a fair short at pursuing their dreams.
That’s what this is about and as long as I’m President this is going to be a critical part of our engagement and our diplomacy with peoples and nations around the world,” he said.
The possibility of attaining the ‘American dream’ no matter where in the world you are, he argued, is not to be underestimated in attaining global stability in the face of growing extremism.
“Poverty alone does not cause terrorism or sectarian violence but investments in youth entrepreneurship and education are some of the best antidotes that we have to that kind of disorder,” he argued.
Extremist attacks in Kenya is one of the reasons critics of President Obama’s decision to visit Kenya as the leader of the free world have given.
“Given America’s military actions against the group, why would al-Shabaab, notorious for the Garissa outrage and for its attack in 2013 on a shopping mall in Nairobi, not attempt to harm President Obama or those in his entourage? Why take such extreme risks?
The United States can presumably mount and afford the massive security phalanx that would be required to keep President Obama safe (guarding President Obama in today’s Kenya will cost approximately Sh5.8 billion). But Kenya hardly can,” Robert I. Rotberg, author of Africa Emerges: Consummate Challenges, Abundant Opportunities 2013) penned in an opinion piece published by the leading Capitol news site politico.com.
He also cited Kenya’s poor track record in combating corruption, President Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto’s International Criminal Court indictments and Kenya’s ethnic politics as other reasons why President Obama should wait to leave office to visit Kenya.
This is not the time for a Kenyan-descended president to visit his ancestral home. Perhaps a better itinerary would take President Obama to Liberia, where Ebola is finally being vanquished; to Botswana, where corruption is less of a concern or to Nigeria, Africa’s largest country, where a brand-new President Muhammadu Buhari has pledged to end corruption,” Rotberg opined.
But despite this and similar opposition to his planned visit to Kenya in July, President Obama’s latest remarks make clear that it remains firmly on the agenda.
The sixth Global Entrepreneurship Summit will be held in Nairobi between July 24 and 26 and will be the first held in Sub-Saharan Africa.