During his fourth trip to the African continent as President, Barack Obama’s visits to Kenya and Ethiopia from July 23–8th made the case for increased American engagement and commercial activity there. President Obama has travelled to Africa more times during his presidency than any other sitting U.S. President. This five-day trip also made President Obama the first sitting U.S. President to visit Kenya, Ethiopia, and to address the African Union. Beyond the great fervor surrounding his visit, many African countries also presented themselves as burgeoning centers of innovation and entrepreneurship during President Obama’s visit.
President Obama attended the Sixth Annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in Nairobi on July 25th. Attendance at the Summit also included executives from various prominent startup ventures from throughout Africa. The opportunity for such business leaders to meet at GES highlighted some interesting differences between entrepreneurial approaches and challenges in the U.S. and in some African countries. Startups in African countries can often find themselves in business environments that lack the technical, human, and even physical infrastructure upon which companies in more developed economies are able to rely. Such challenges to getting a new venture “off the ground,” however, may also present great opportunities. While Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta declared his country “open and ready for business,” President Obama announced at GES an initiative to provide more than $1billion in financing from the U.S. for African entrepreneurial ventures. With such interest from Silicon Valley and the President, and with new start-up cultures emerging throughout, Africa appears poised to become a significant region for investment in the years to come.