President Barack Obama Saturday opened the bag of goodies his government and his 200-man delegation have brought for Kenya and the rest of Africa.
Equity Bank, universities, women and youth are some of the biggest beneficiaries of US investments so far at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) which ends today.
In a 13-minute speech described by some delegates as “not one of his most inspiring”, the world’s most powerful president said his government was committing significant resources to advance entrepreneurship in sub-Saharan Africa.
A calm Obama addressed a packed auditorium that included government and dignitaries from the US and Kenya. The US President said half of the new investment commitments from banks, foundations, philanthropists and the US Government will support youth and women entrepreneurs. He said investors had surpassed the Sh100 billion ($1billion) target he had set for the year.
“We have handpicked 200 seasoned investors and brought them to this summit. So if you see them, do not be shy. Pin them down. Get their advice. Pitch them your idea,” he said.
“We have got some incredible entrepreneurs and business leaders well established from the US who are with us. They see the promise as well. And they are putting their money where their mouth is.”
President Obama maintained that he was proud to be the first American President to visit Kenya. “This is personal for me. There is a reason why my name is Barack Hussein Obama. My father came from these parts, and I have family and relatives here,” Obama said as he commended the warm spirit of the Kenyan people.
But it was not an all serious affair.
Obama started his address at 10.40a.m. at the UN headquarters in Gigiri by greeting the audience in Kiswahili and Sheng.
“Niaje Wasee!” he beamed.
“Hawayuni?” He greeted the delegates before delving into his speech.
Obama, who was accompanied by 20 members of the US congress, announced that the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the US Government’s Development Finance Institution, will pump $200 million (Sh20 billion) into Equity Bank lending of $450 million (Sh45 billion) in foreign currency.
The billions will mainly be channelled to a loan product with a main focus on youth and women and the small and medium enterprises in the next five years. OPIC also signed a memorandum of understanding opening the door to a Sh10 billion ($100 million) financing to the Goldman sacks 10,000 Women and the International Finance Corporation’s fund for women.
The fund, dubbed Women Entrepreneurs Opportunity Facility, is expected to extend debt investments to support financial institutions that lend to women-owned small and medium entrepreneurs worldwide.
Obama also announced that Kenya will be one of the three countries that will host the Women Entrepreneurship Centres in Africa that the US government is launching. The other countries selected are Zambia and Mali.
He also said OPIC has set aside Sh5 billion for a two year pilot programme to support smaller earlier stage companies that generate positive social impact.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), will provide a Sh2.5 billion loan portfolio guarantee to support Deutsche Bank’s newly launched Sh5 billion Essential Capital Consortium (ECC) Fund.
The ECC is a debt fund that lends to social enterprises targeting the financial services, energy and health sectors around the world. USAID is a US Government agency responsible for administering foreign aid.
“Entrepreneurship creates new jobs and new businesses, new ways to deliver basic services, new ways of seeing the world,” he said.
Obama emphasised on the need to involve women in entrepreneurship even as he called on governments to remove barriers to businesses that include lack of capital, discrimination and poor government policies. “You can’t win if half the team is not playing,” Obama said. He said Africa is on the move and invited people to stop the stereotype on Africa.
He said the Summit has helped build a network of more than 1,600 women entrepreneurs across Africa.
The summit has attracted about 1,000 outstanding entrepreneurs and investors from more than 120 countries.
“I launched the first of these summits in Washington five years ago. And since then, we have helped empower hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs, giving them a boost to launch thousands of new businesses and initiatives,” Obama said.
The choice of Nairobi to host the summit, the first time by a sub-Saharan Africa country, highlightes the entrepreneurial dynamism of the continent.
Obama has a busy three-day schedule on his current visit to Kenya, his father’s homeland. After the speech at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES), Obama visited the Power Africa Innovation Fair.
Afterwards, Obama left for the Central Business District where he laid a wreath at the Memorial Park to pay tribute to American and Kenyan citizens who died in the 1998 bomb blast where more than 200 people were killed. He then held a bilateral talks with President Kenyatta.
Obama and Uhuru then held a joint press conference later in the afternoon before settling down for dinner at State House Nairobi.