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Barack Obama book on his Kenyan roots nets him Sh690m

By Moses Michira | January 23rd 2017
Former US President Barack Obama. (Photo Courtesy)

A book based on his Kenyan father and roots earned former US President Barack Obama Sh690 million, the single biggest income stream contributing to the Sh2 billion he has made in 12 years.

In an illustration on the cover of the 44th US President’s memoir, Dreams From My Father, his father, Barack Obama Sr, is pictured sitting on his mother’s lap in Homa Bay about 80 years ago.

Obama Sr would later move back to his original home in K’Ogelo, Siaya, as a young man before taking up a scholarship in the US to permanently change the course of history through his son, who exited the White House last Friday as the first-ever African American president.

As the 55-year-old former President headed out on a California holiday, America’s foremost business magazine, Forbes, placed his earnings – including his eight-year salary as Head of State – at slightly over Sh2 billion ($20 million).

Dreams From My Father, the book that explores Obama’s early years including his 1971 last meeting with his Kenyan father after his parents divorced, earned him more than twice his cumulative Sh320 million official salary.

A breakdown of his income placed the monthly salary at about Sh3.3 million, which compares closely to President Uhuru Kenyatta’s pay, including allowances.

Obama earned three in every four shillings as President from books he authored, Forbes reports, citing income tax returns filed and other financial disclosures.

“In total, Obama has earned $15.6 million (Sh1.6 billion) as an author since arriving in Washington,” Dan Alexander reports for Forbes.

Several past US presidents, including Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford, made most of their wealth from book deals rather than salaries or business, before or during their respective tenures.

Obama also drew a senatorial salary estimated at Sh62 million since arriving in Washington – the seat of the US government – in 2004.

He is credited with three books, all bestsellers, including the memoir, The Audacity of Hope and Of Thee I Sing: A Letter To My Daughters. Obama and his wife Michelle have two daughters, Malia Ann born in 1998 and 16-year-old Natasha (Sasha).

In the first publication that ends with his life at Harvard University, where his Kenyan father had earlier studied, Obama narrates the story of an absentee dad – as told by his mother Ann Dunham and his maternal grandparents.

He also writes about his interaction with his father when he was about 16 in Hawaii, after his parents’ separation in 1963.



Forbes puts the collective revenues from the two latter books at Sh890 million ($8.8 million).

But it was the 2006 book, The Audacity of Hope, that sold over 1.9 million copies and propelled Obama to global recognition and afterwards to the US presidency.

In July 2004, he delivered a keynote address at the National Democratic Party’s Convention after having only months before won by a landslide the Illinois senatorial seat.

His speech was titled ‘The Audacity of Hope’, which was inspired by a 1990 church sermon.

His moving address at the meeting put him on the national stage, even though the then Democratic presidential aspirant, John Kerry, would go on to lose to incumbent George Bush in the elections held in August 2004.

It is the same message of hope that Obama rode against all odds as an African American to emerge first as the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate and later beat then Arizona Senator John McCain to the presidency.

Obama’s third book, Unto Thee I Sing, is for children and was dedicated to his daughters.

Some of the reviews of the book, which he finished writing as president, describe it as a moving tribute to 13 legendary Americans and ideals that have shaped the country.

Proceeds from the sale of the book will be donated to a scholarship fund for the children of fallen and disabled US service personnel.

Obama moved out of the White House but will remain in Washington, in an upscale neighbourhood where the monthly rent is about Sh2.3 million, to enable his daughter to complete school before possibly moving back home to Chicago, Illinois.

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