U.S. President Barack Obama and his Kenyan counterpart President Kenyatta a few hours ago opened the 6th annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) at the U.N headquarters in Gigiri, Nairobi. The summit was co-hosted by the two governments where they both reiterated their commitments to inculcate the spirit of entrepreneurship in a fashion that will ensure economic growth, social inclusion and secure communities.
GES inception traces its roots from the historic speech made by President Obama in Cairo, Egypt back in 2009. Since then, Obama has encouraged a U.S. led engagement around the world encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship as embodied under the GES initiative that was first held in Washington D.C. back in 2010.
Over the years, GES has been the focal point for a U.S.-led engagement in catalyzing entrepreneurship in countries across the globe. Where the summit goes, the summit seeks to promote innovative ecosystems and advocate for a conducive business climate. By lobbying for the rule of law, transparent governance, economic empowerment of the youths, women and the marginalized communities. It has also mobilized the private sector to get actively involved in this process.
The 6th GES has been particularly special for Kenyan people and the U.S. President Obama. Given the U.S. President’s late father, Barack Obama Snr. was born, bred and laid to rest in Kenya.
This year’s summit brought an estimated 1,000 seasoned entrepreneurs and investors from all over the world. In search for outcome-oriented sessions, opportunities to pitch their products and opportunities for mentorship. The summit reinforced the need for African-based solutions and giving the opportunity for investors and entrepreneurs from all over the world to contribute towards making this a possibility.
During the 2014 GES held in Morocco, the Obama administration set a target of raising $1 billion from the private sector over the next three years to benefit entrepreneurs all over the world. In May, President Obama called on the world governments, companies and individuals to contribute and make this target attainable.
Today at Gigiri, Nairobi, President Obama announced that they have already received commitments from banks, philanthropists and foundations including the U.S. Government amounting to over $1 billion. Half of this money will go towards empowering the youth and women.
Key Highlights from the speech made By President Obama at GES 2015
President Obama opening speech was marked by some humor and light moments by using some of the local dialects, when he said:
“Good morning… Jambo… Niaje wasee, hawayuni… I am proud to be the first US President to visit Kenya, and obviously this is personal for me, there’s a reason why my name is Barack Hussein Obama, my father came from this parts, I have family and relatives here.”
Obama then delved into pertinent matters touching on entrepreneurship, and the empowerment of women and the youth. The following is a quote from parts of the speech made by Obama:
“We got some outstanding young people here today who I think represent the promise of entrepreneurship not only in Africa but around the world. But I do want to make just a few quick points. We are joined today by inspiring entrepreneurs from more than 120 countries and many from across Africa. And all of you embody a spirit that we need to take on some of the biggest challenges that we face in the world. The spirit of entrepreneurship the idea that there are no limits to the human imagination. That ingenuity can overcome what is and create what needs to be…
Entrepreneurship creates new jobs, new businesses, new ways to deliver basic services, new ways of seeing the world. It’s the spark of prosperity. It helps citizens to stand up for their rights and push back against corruption. Entrepreneurship offers a positive alternative to the ideologies of violence and division that can all too often fill the void when young people don’t see a future for themselves.
Entrepreneurship means ownership and self-determination as opposed to simply being depended on somebody else for your livelihood and your future. Entrepreneurship brings down barriers between communities and cultures and builds bridges… because one thing entrepreneurs understand is that you don’t have to look a certain way, be at a certain faith or have a certain last name in order to have a good idea.
The challenge is… hard to access capital, hard sometimes to get the training and skills to run a business as professionally as it needs to be in this competitive world. It’s hard to tap into the networks and mentors that could mean the difference between a venture taking off and one that falls flat.
And it’s even harder for women, and young people and communities that have often been marginalized and denied access to opportunities. You run into old attitudes that say some people because of where you come from or what you look like don’t have what it takes to lead or create a business and sometimes it is settled.
You go in to pitch an idea and maybe the response you get might not be as enthusiastic as if someone else pitched the exact same idea. Sometimes women or folks from communities that historically have not been viewed as entrepreneurial may not have the means of opening those doors just to get in front of the right person… That’s why I have made encouraging this spirit of entrepreneurship a key part of America’s engagement in the world.”