Obama touts AGOA, Africa’s opportunity as he leaves for Kenya, Ethiopia

President Barack Obama: Africa is a place of incredible dynamism

President Barack Obama: Africa is a place of incredible dynamism

The President of the United States is set to leave Washington, DC, headed to Nairobi, Kenya, to attend the Sixth Annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) scheduled for July 24-26.

On the eve his maiden trip to his father’s homeland as president, Obama told members of the diplomatic corps from Africa, members of Congress, business leaders, NGOs, members of the faith community that with their help, his administration has managed to secure “the long-term renewal of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), that’s worth applauding.”

The US President underscored AGOA’s potential to “boost the trade and investment that supports hundreds of thousands of jobs both in Africa and the United States, creating opportunities for all of us”

Obama went on to say he was “especially pleased that AGOA will continue to encourage good governance and labor and human rights. That’s something that we can be proud of.”

AGOA was initiated in 2000 by Obama’s predecessor President George W. Bush, and it’s original purpose was to incentivize African countries to continue liberalizing their economies and trading with countries like the United States.

According to the 2013 US department of Commerce report on AGOA, that year US “total trade (exports plus imports) with sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) reached $63.3 billion, a decrease of 12 percent compared to 2012”

The report indicated US AGOA imports amounted to $26.8 billion, representing 23% less than 2012 figures. The slump was attributed to fall in petroleum product imports.

According to the same report, Nigeria, Angola, South Africa, Chad, and Republic of Congo (DRC) were the top five AGOA beneficiaries in 2013, closely followed by Gabon, Kenya, Lesotho, and Mauritius.

In his speech on Wednesday July 22, Obama reiterated that despite some serious challenges Africa equally possess great economic potential.

“Africa is a place of incredible dynamism, some of the fastest-growing markets in the world, extraordinary people,extraordinary resilience. And it has the potential to be the next center of global economic growth,” Obama said.

In addition, President Obama noted his administration has recognized Africa’s opportunity by taking the US-Africa relationship to greater heights.

“We’ve boosted U.S. exports. We’ve launched historic initiatives to promote trade and investment, health, agricultural development and food security, Power Africa to promote and expand electrification. We’re empowering a new generation of young African leaders, including Mandela Fellows,” he boasted

Obama conceded the continent’s “deep and complex” relationship with the US has not always been the best citing suspicion and misunderstandings.

He however said the above notwithstanding, survey after survey shows Africans “love the US and what it stands for”

Meanwhile, ‘Obamamania’ has gripped the East African nation of Kenya as, businesses, citizens and government officials look forward to receive “one of our own”, and also cash in on his highly anticipated trip in terms of tourism revenues.

Numerous roads will be closed off during the Obama’s visit, and the main Kenyetta International Airport will be “out of service” but Kenyans don’t seem to mind the one day disruption of their normal lives.

While in Kenya, the president will address the entrepreneurship summit, meet with top government officials including President Uhuru Kenyetta. Obama will also address a public rally.

From Kenya, Obama will wind up his visit in Ethiopia where he is due to Address the African Union, at its headquarters in Addis Ababa. He will be the first US president to address the continental body.

In a related development, Obama’s trip to East Africa has raised security concerns for the president and the people of the region as many experts think terror group’s like Al-Shabaab might choose to strike while the president is in the area.

Washington authorities have also been angered by  the uncustomary release of the president’s travel details.

Kenyans have also reacted to CNN’s decision to label their country a ‘terror hotbed’ in the station’s reporting about the security concerns.

“Kenya is a safe vibrant nation, this is not Iraq or Afghanistan, CNN should know better,” one Kimani angrily wrote on twitter