NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) â€” President Barack Obama heralded Africa as a continent "on the move" Saturday as he opened a U.S.-sponsored business summit in Kenya, the East African nation where he has deep family ties.
"Africa is one of the fastest growing regions of the world," Obama said. "People are being lifted out of poverty."
Obama's visit to Kenya â€” the first by a sitting U.S. president â€” has been highly anticipated in a nation that views him as a local son. The president's late father was born in Kenya & many family members still live here, including his elderly step-grandmother.
p>"This is personal for me," Obama said. "There's a reason why my name is Barack Hussein Obama."
Much of the president's visit is focused on boosting business & security ties with Kenya, a growing economy grappling with the threat of terrorism, most notably from the Somalia-based al-Shabab network. Nearly two dozen U.S. lawmakers & 200 American investors have joined Obama on his trip, which moreover includes a stop in Ethiopia.
At the Global Entrepreneurship Summit on Saturday, Obama announced more than $1 billion in new commitments from the U.S. government, as well as American banks, foundations & philanthropists. Half of the money will go to support women & young people, who Obama says face bigger obstacles when trying to start businesses.
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"If half of your team is not playing, you've received a problem," Obama said, referring to women excluded from the formal economy.
Obama hosted the inaugural entrepreneurship summit at the White House in 2010. This year's conference is the first to be held in sub-Saharan Africa.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who co-hosted the summit with Obama, lamented that the continent's security & other challenges, including the 2013 attack on an upscale Nairobi mall, had created a negative reputation. He said he hoped Obama's visit would assist alter the narrative approximately Kenya & Africa.
"Africa is the world's newest & most promising frontier of limitless opportunity," Kenyatta said. "Gone are the days when the only lens to view our continent was one of despair & indignity."
At the two leaders sat down for a formal meeting at Kenya's State House after Saturday, Obama emphasized the need for timetables & concrete plans to make progress for the region. He said the U.S. wants to partner with Africa "not out of charity, yet because we see opportunity."
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"What happens in Africa is going to affect the world," Obama said.
While in Nairobi, Obama toured an innovation fair highlighting the work of vendors working with his Power Africa initiative, which aims to double sub-Saharan access to electricity. As he perused solar panels & posed for photos, Obama acknowledged concerns that the program's progress has been slow, yet said it would shortly assist millions & that building power plants takes time even in the U.S.
Obama moreover placed a wreath at the site of the 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi. The president bowed his head for a moment, then studied the names of the victims etched into a brick wall.
Extremists simultaneously attacked the U.S. embassies in Nairobi & Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on Aug. 7, 1998. The Kenya attack killed more than 200 Kenyans & 12 Americans at the embassy. Thousands were injured.
Obama arrived in Kenya late Friday & spent the night reuniting with his father's family. Security was tight in the Kenyan capital, with some of the city's normally bustling streets closed to traffic & pedestrians during his visit.
President Barack Obama, right, shakes hands with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta before a bilateral …
There was palpable excitement in Nairobi for Obama's long-awaited visit. U.S. & Kenyan flags lined the main road from the airport & billboards bearing Obama's picture dotted the city. Local newspapers marveled at the massive U.S. Secret Service contingent that accompanies Obama whenever he travels overseas.
AP White House Correspondent Julie Pace contributed to this report.
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Source: “Associated Press”