‘Innovation, key to Africa’s future’
The visit coincided with my reading of the Kenyan novel Dust which I will be reviewing shortly. My initial thoughts race with the beginning, as a young man is chased by bullets, and a Kenya that I sense at a <g data-gr-id="39">cross roads</g> between the post-independence battle for power after it gained freedom from the United Kingdom in 1963 and a sense of hope offered through the spirit of entrepreneurship.
The President focused on how innovation and entrepreneurs remained the key to Africa’s future. He stated ‘entrepreneurship offers a positive alternative to the ideologies of violence and division that all too often can fill the void when young people don’t see a future for themselves’ with M-PESA, the mobile banking innovation that has crossed borders being one such example. The old stereotypes of war, famine and hopelessness have been replaced by a fast past growing economy with Steve Case, CEO of investment firm Revolution, stating: “I think the first wave of investment in Africa was around infrastructure. I think the next wave which is now just breaking, is around innovation.”
Close observers have stated that Africa’s economies are creating too few jobs that offer better wages as a means to improving standards of living, and investment and entrepreneurship will surely contribute as a means of job creation as long as the ecosystem for innovation, creation and development of new business is made fertile. Obama said in Nairobi: “creating the transparency, and the rule of law, and the ease of doing business and the anti-corruption agenda that creates a platform for people to succeed,” would essentially allow Kenya and Africa to prosper.
President Obama, who is unlikely to return to Africa as president championed the relinquishing of power stating “no presidents for life on the African continent” although critics argued he was offering views in matters he had limited cultural understanding. He made further statements on gay rights and that African nations should treat lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people (LGBT) equally.
On his trip to Ethiopia he visited Lucy, the skeletal remains of a woman considered to have lived over three million years ago where some journalists wrote that the cultural remnants were poorly presented and meagre in comparison to institutions like the Smithsonian in Washington.
John Githongo, a veteran Kenyan campaigner, believes corruption in Kenya is worse than ever with payment of bribes to police and bureaucrats by Kenyans routine and only 1% of government spending properly accounted for. Before leaving Kenya, President Obama had dinner with his extended family representing his Kenyan heritage, stating that “he’ll be back and next time not in a suit”. Returning to the Kenyan novel Dust, I circle Mount Kenya; descend with Ajani and her father in a plane carrying her brother’s body, “the plane evens out, crabs into a soft landing. Dust <g data-gr-id="42">twirls</g> on their tail.” Her brother, caught in firing, blood gurgling as the story starts with contemporary Kenyan history as a canvas, and the author Yvonne Adhiambo <g data-gr-id="43">Owour</g> sharing her story Dust.