President Barack Obama visited Kenya for the first Global Entrepreneurship Summit (2015) in sub-Saharan Africa; this trip held particular significance as it was seen as Obama’s homecoming, dubbed #ObamaReturns #ObamaInKenya. The son of a former Kenyan goat herder came back as one of the most powerful men in the world.
Obama delivered various speeches, including one where he mentioned Kenya’s anti-gay laws which didn’t go down too well with his Kenyan counterpart, Uhuru Kenyatta.
Obama: … “A law-abiding citizen who is going about their business, and working at a job and obeying the traffic signs and not harming anybody, the idea they will be treated differently or abused because of who they love is wrong, full stop.”
Kenyatta: “There are some things that we must admit we don’t share. It’s very difficult for us to impose on people that which they themselves do not accept.”
Kenyatta went onto say that although America an Kenya share certain values, Kenyans are not bothered about gay rights, but rather issues such as healthcare which affect their daily lives.
I think Obama would have expected this type of response. Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that their Constitution renders gay marriage legal across the whole of the country, Obama’s stance on gay rights has garnered global attention. Visiting what has been labelled the most homophobic continent in the world, and specifically Kenya where such activities are illegal, Obama would have been judged by the rest of the international community if he didn’t speak on the issue. However, I think it’s fallen on deaf (Kenyan) ears; unlike in America, in a country fighting infant mortality rates, maternal deaths, poor sanitation and other related issues, gay rights will not feature high on the domestic political agenda. After all it was only this year that U.S. Supreme Court made their ruling, which wasn’t really top of the agenda when America was going through the recession.
Although this short trip was designed to focus on the economic relationship between Africa (specifically Kenya; apparently the largest economy in East Africa), many were also interested to see the dynamics between Obama and his family.
After the festivities, the business of African entrepreneurship was back on the agenda with a particular focus on the importance of young and female entrepreneurs in Kenya and across the continent, as women are more likely to reinvest back into their families and local communities. To facilitate this, there was a pledge from Obama to opening three Women Entrepreneurial Centres in Zambia, Kenya and Mali.
In another speech at Moi International Sports Centre in Nairobi, Obama condemned the oppression and physical abuse of women, including genital mutilation. Overall this whistle-stop trip to Kenya was a positive one. Obama’s rhetoric on the strides Africa has made to pull herself out of poverty coming to fruition reverberated around the stadium. However, familiar cautions were thrown into the mix: corruption and tribal divisions, which have been obstacles to African development for decades.
After leaving his father’s birth place, President Obama landed in Ethiopia today (Sunday 26th July), where he will again be the first US president to visit the country, and address the 54-member African Union (AU), at its £127m Chinese funded headquarters, on 28th July 2015. According to a report by Ernst and Young (EY), Ethiopia is predicted to be third largest economy in the Sub-Saharan Africa by 2017. Zemedneh Negatu, Managing Partner at EY Ethiopia, mentioned that Ethiopia accounted for a fifth of Foreign direct investment (FDI) jobs in Africa during 2014.
Some may question what Obama has actually done for Africa, especially being (of direct traceable African descent) the first African-American elected president of the U.S. on 5th November 2008.
To be blunt, not much.
Bill Clinton introduced the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), and the George Bush administration increased aid spending targeted at HIV and AIDS initiatives. However, this Global Entrepreneurship Summit is a step in a better direction; to really rise from the ashes of poverty Africa needs transparent and accountable institutions and for Africans to develop their own businesses. Championing entrepreneurship and access to global funding opportunities is the way to go.
It’s important to remember Barack Obama is the president of the U.S. therefore domestic issues such as the recession and terrorism (he was able to track down and kill Osama Bin Laden) will take precedence over foreign policy. Despite this, the hopes of many Africans and those of African descent in the diaspora rested on his shoulders. The fact that a black / mixed-race man (which ever term you prefer), could be democratically elected in a country with one of the most brutal legacies of racial hatred, filled black people around the world with hope. As Obama is still just a human being, there are some burdens which one cannot carry alone.
The Sky’s the limit.
Despite not living up to all the expectations placed on this man born in sunny Hawaii, Barack Obama has inspired hope in many of his fellow Kenyans, who regard him as one of their own, and people of African descent around the world. Sometimes, all you need to do is cause a ripple in the water…and the rest (they say) is history.
Barack Hussein Obama II is An African-American ‘Affecter’
Affect (verb): Have an effect on; make a difference to or influence something.
An African affect with a colourful perspective
Before I start, let me just say that I am not nor ever will be a fan of Coronation Street! I am an Eastenders fan all the way! The Mitchells, the Brannings, Ian Beale, Kim, Denise, Janine, Kat and Alfie…… I love them all :-). I also love that, even though they have washing machines everyone still visits the Laundrette to do their washing! Anyway, let me not digress (especially for those of you who are unfortunately not Eastenders fans).
So I finally managed to catch up with ‘Corrie goes to Kenya’. Cast members from the soap went to the rural town, Bangladesh (estimated population 20,000) in Kenya to participate in a drama series with Kenyan actors to educate locals and try to break down the social stigma surrounding HIV in Kenya. This was made possible by a charity called S.A.F.E, founded by British actor Nick Reding in 2001.
According to the program, this rural town has no running water and around 10% of the residents have HIV. What struck me most was the immense stigma that hangs over those who are infected. During the program anecdotal tales of young infected children being beaten up and scared to play outside, men and women not even telling their husbands/wives they are infected as well as rape are all used as avenues for the disease to spread. I think the stigma is worse for women than for men, either way it’s still there. One of the local ambassadors for S.A.F.E was able to gradually tell the rest of his community about his HIV+ status and seemed to have been accepted. Watching the program made me think of how, in the UK we can take public health messages and the NHS for granted. Most HIV clinics in Kenya are charity, not government funded. It is difficult to get life-saving health education to rural communities in Kenya for obvious reasons; but it’s through education that people will be empowered.
Despite the best efforts around the world, the HIV vaccine still manages to slip through the fingers of medical science, primarily because there are many variations of the HIV virus and it is able to enter cells in the body and combine with normal human cell DNA making it difficult for the human immune system to attack and kill the virus. The virus is able to multiply undetected by the immune system and when ready, goes on to destroy the very cells that we use to fight infections.
Many wonder when there will ever be an effective HIV vaccine, Dr Robert Gallo, one of the scientists who discovered HIV in the 80’s responded, ‘Anybody who gives you an answer to that is telling you fantasies, deliberately or unconsciously’. So prevention, through education and empowerment is definitely better than cure; especially as there is no ‘cure’ at the moment.
doubleaad : AdelinA