Global Entrepreneurship Summit 2015 : Jambo bwana* OBAMA

Credit Photo Cliff Howen

“He who does not know where he comes from cannot know where he is going.”** The aphorism is almost circumstantial at the edge of the 5th visit of President Barack Obama on the African continent.

Indeed, the Government of the Republic of Kenya has agreed to co-organize, with the United States of America, the 6th edition of the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES), to be held on the 25th and 26th of July 2015 in Nairobi. Could this be a powerful symbol of the repressed affection of the American President to the land of his ancestors?  Or is it an obvious sign of the new look of the United States towards Africa? Either way, this first edition of the summit in sub-Saharan Africa seems to justify by itself the exceptional travel of the “son of the Jamhuri Ya Kenya”*** : his first state visit to the country since his election as president in January 2009.

In the bags of the leader of the Western world, there will certainly be some reminiscences of a country which it has never really cut ties with. Part of his family still lives there and his last visit was in 2006 when he was still a senator from Illinois. However, his schedule will probably include, among others, bilateral meetings, agreements to sign, investors and investments from which Kenya and the African continent will surely benefit.

The High Mass of the Global Entrepreneurship

The GES is an annual initiative of the White House since 2009. In each edition, it aims to present the dynamism of the host country and to strengthen its business infrastructures. But it is also the opportunity to fit in with the image of a multipolar world, targeting the countries of the world that are either emerging or promising.

In its six editions so far, it has become an essential platform for the business sector. It emanates from the will of the United States President and his administration to hoist Entrepreneurship at the pinnacle of the priorities of his country and its trade with the world. It is on purpose that the Secretary of State John Kerry was speaking in these terms during the GES 2014 at Marrakech: “The United States has learned through its own experience that entrepreneurship is an essential driver of prosperity and of freedom.”

The Global Entrepreneurship Summit aims to bring together young entrepreneurs with the business leaders, international organizations and governments that want to support them. It brings together politicians, diplomats, business leaders, women and businessmen, investment fund representatives, financial institutions, NGOs, universities and more. All take part in two days of plenary sessions, interactive sessions and B to B meetings in order to create networks to find solutions to local problems, generate economic growth and promote the exchange of ideas favorable to the improvement of the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

After conclusive editions in Washington DC in 2010, followed by Turkey, the Arab United Emirates and Malaysia, Morocco’s edition in 2014 showed a glowing review. Among those who took part in this edition were: heads of state and government representatives including the Presidents of Gabon and Guinea and the US Vice President Joe Biden, 3000 entrepreneurs, 58 partners (including Microsoft, Coca-Cola or the Wall Street Journal), 6800 participants from 95 countries, 194 stakeholders, 405 journalists Representatives, 300 local and international media outlets. Additionally, 9 conventions were signed between large companies and SMEs, and 22 million Internet users were interacting through social media.

The new challenges of the cooperation Africa – USA

More particularly, the GES in Nairobi appears as yet another wink of the United States to the African continent.

The choice of Kenya is not accidental, as the country represents on its own all the hopes and weaknesses of the continent. The country is the economic powerhouse of East Africa. With growth estimated at 6% for 2015, the projections are 6.6% in 2016 and 7% in 2017. It surpasses the 4.4% average growth in Sub-Saharan Africa according to the World Bank. In addition, Kenya has become a middle-income country since 2014.

The GES 2015 will therefore highlight the liveliness of the country, but it is also a follow-up of the US – Africa Summit in August 2014 which brought together some fifty African leaders around President Barack Obama under the suggestive theme: “Investing in the next generation.” The event, first of its kind for the United States, had advanced the priorities of the US government granted to trade and investments in Africa. It had thus facilitated a budget of $33 billion investment for the continent, public and private sectors alike: 7 billion from the US government for the development of trade, 14 billion agreements from the private sector, and 12 billion for the Power Africa****  initiative to improve the electricity supply in Africa, where Kenya is one of six countries chosen for the first phase of the program.

Security is also one of the areas of concern throughout the visit. The East African nation is one of the largest recipients of US military support against the terrorist groups that attack the region. As the countdown to the arrival of the US President is ticking, the Kenyan people still has strongly in mind the massacres of Garissa last April that killed 147 people. The emotion, as vivid as the first day, still bruises victims’ families as well as the Kenyan and African people, for whom there will never be enough tribute.

The expectations around this historic visit are even bigger and we look forward to its success in order for all to repeat: Hakuna Matata*****.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Louis Gilbert BISSEK

*”Hello Mister” in Swahili, mostly of Bantu language spoken in the countries of East Africa like Kenya; which it is with English, the official language; Uganda and Tanzania
**Antonio Gramsci
***Republic of Kenya in Swahili language
****Launched in 2013 by Barack Obama, the project aims to double access to electricity in Africa in 2018 and supply 60 million homes and businesses. The program has $26 billion.
***** Swahili term meaning “there is no problem”

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