US President Barack Obama has told a business summit in Kenya that entrepreneurship can foster growth and peace in Africa. His remarks come on the first full day of a landmark trip to the country, his father's homeland.
Addressing a US-sponsored Global Enterpreneurship Summit in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, Obama told African entrepreneurs that the continent was advancing fast.
"Africa is on the move. Africa is one of the fastest growing regions in the world," he said, adding: "People are being lifted out of poverty, incomes are up, the middle class is growing and young people like you are harnessing technology to change the way Africa is doing business."
He also told conference guests that a forward-looking attitude to business was a good way to counter conflict on the continent.
"Enterepreneurship offers a positive alternative to the ideologies of violence and division that can all too often fill the void when young pepole don't see a future for themselves," he said.
He warned, however, that governments need to establish the rule of law and to tackle corruption to aid businesses to thrive.
Funds for the disadvantaged
Obama also announced more than $1 billion (911 million euros) in new financial assistance to the country from the US government, banks, foundations and philanthropists.
Half of the money is to go to help women and young people, who Obama said were generally disadvantaged in the business world.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta used his speech to voice the hope that Obama's visit, the first by a sitting US president, would help change Kenya and Africa's global image.
"Africa is the world's newest and most promising frontier of limitless opportunity," Kenyatta said. "Gone are the days when the only lens to view our continent was one of despair and indignity."
Security tops agenda
During Obama's visit, which has already seen him reunited with some of his extended family, the US president is also to discuss enhancing counter-terrorism measures, particularly in the fight against al Qaeda-linked al-Shabab militants from neighboring Somalia.
Al Shabab has been responsible for a string of attacks in Kenya, including a bombing of Nairobi's Westgate shopping mall in 2013 in which 67 people died. The group says its attacks are in retaliation for Kenyan military participation in efforts to combat al Shabab in Somalia itself.
A presidential visit to Kenya had been delayed while Kenyatta was facing charges of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for his role in post-election violence in 2007-2008. The ICC has since dropped the case, saying there was not enough evidence and accusing Kenya of bribing or intimidating witnesses.
Gay rights tensions
Tensions might possibly arise owing to the likely presence of Deputy President William Ruto, who is still on trial at the ICC, at talks between Obama and government officials.
Ruto's hostile stance toward gay rights might also be a problem, with Obama saying in an interview with the BBC ahead of the visit that the issue of combating discrimination against homosexuality would be "part and parcel of the agenda," though Kenyatta dismissed the topic as "a non-issue."
After the business summit, Obama was to pay tribute to victims and survivors of a bombing by Islamist militants at the US Embassy in Nairobi in 1998, before holding talks with Kenyatta and attending a state dinner.
On Sunday, he is scheduled to meet with members of Kenya's civil society, before flying on to Ethiopia late in the evening.
tj/jlw (AFP, Reuters, AP)