US President Barack Obama has praised Africa for its economic advancements, calling it “one of the fastest growing regions in the world”, while co-hosting a summit on global entrepreneurship with his Kenyan counterpart, Uhuru Kenyatta, in Nairobi.
Obama declared on Saturday that “Africa is on the move”, in his first official engagement since arriving in the Kenyan capital a day earlier.
“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 told the summit.
Sharing the stage with Obama, Kenyatta also voiced optimism towards a brighter future for the continent.
“The narrative of African despair is false, and indeed was never true,” Kenyatta said. “Let them know that Africa is open and ready for business.”
The summit is aimed at promoting businesses that promise to lift many more Africans out of poverty and help insulate societies against radicalisation.
As Obama arrived in Kenya, the birthplace of his father, throngs of Kenyans lined the route of his convoy, cheering, whistling and waving as the motorcade passed by and a helicopter circled overhead.
Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simmons, reporting from Nairobi, said there was “overwhelming euphoria” when Obama arrived, adding that the US president is the “most popular” politician in Kenya.
The visit is Obama’s first as president, and is also the first time a sitting US president will visit Ethiopia and the African Union’s headquarters in Addis Ababa.
The first African-American president of the US is expected to address regional security issues and trade, and also touch on matters relating to democracy, poverty, and human rights in the region.
A previous planned trip to Kenya was delayed by Kenyatta’s indictment for war crimes by the International Criminal Court.
Those charges were suspended last year – in part, prosecutors say, because the Kenyan government thwarted the investigation.
Obama’s trip has also come under fire by rights groups, and more than 50 African and global human rights organisations have called on him to publicly meet democracy activists on the ground.
They voiced concerns about “grave and worsening” rights challenges in both Kenya and Ethiopia.
The charges against Kenyatta, and the fact that Ethiopia’s government won 100 percent of parliamentary seats in a recent disputed election, has raised questions about whether Obama should have made the trip at all.
In Addis Ababa, Obama is expected to address leaders of the African Union.
He spent Friday evening reuniting with about three dozens of Kenyan family members.
Obama has said he had “never truly known” his father, who was born in Kenya’s far west, in Kogelo village near the shores of Lake Victoria.
An economist, he walked out when Obama was just two and died in a car crash in Nairobi in 1982, aged 46.
Obama has previously made personal visits to Kogelo, the home of many of his Kenyan relatives, most recently in 2006.