US President Barack Obama said Saturday “Africa is on the move”, as he praised the spirit of entrepreneurship at a business summit in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, during his first visit to the country of his father’s birth since his election as president.
“I wanted to be here, because Africa is on the move, Africa is one of the fastest growing regions in the world,” Obama said.
“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 business.”
The US embassy itself warned the summit could be “a target for terrorists”, but President Uhuru Kenyatta said the event showed a different side to Africa than that often portrayed in the media.
“The narrative of African despair is false, and indeed was never true,” Kenyatta said.
“Let them know that Africa is open and ready for business,” he added.
Obama arrived in Kenya late Friday, when Kenyatta greeted him as he stepped off Air Force One.
“It is wonderful to be back in Kenya,” Obama said.
“I’m proud to be the first US president to visit Kenya, and obviously this is personal for me. My father came from these parts.”
Obama is linked to his Kenyan family via his father Barack senior, a pipe-smoking economist who Obama has admitted he “never truly” knew. He walked out when Obama was just two and died in a car crash in Nairobi in 1982, aged 46.
A massive security operation was under way in Nairobi, with parts of the usually traffic-clogged capital locked down and airspace also closed for the president’s landing late Friday and his scheduled departure late Sunday for neighbouring Ethiopia.
Top of the list of security concerns is Somalia’s Al-Qaeda-affiliate, al-Shabaab, who have staged a string of suicide attacks, massacres and bombings on Kenyan soil, including an attack on a university in April that killed 147 students.
Obama said he had seen big changes in Kenya’s rapidly growing capital Nairobi since his last visit around a decade ago, saying it looked “pretty different” and praising the “incredible progress”.
Obama later laid a wreath at the August 7, 1998 US embassy bomb blast Memorial Park in downtown Nairobi, and held bilateral talks at State House with Kenyatta and his cabinet members.