By Teresa Clarke
Published July 28, 2015
US President Barack Obama’s visit (July 24-26, 2015) to Kenya commenced in a reactionary frenzy to CNN’s pre-visit headline that Kenya is a hotbed of terrorism.
This particular headline touched a raw nerve for Kenyans, Africans, and those who understand Africa because Obama was visiting Kenya to attend the Global Entrepreneurship Summit — a gathering of more than 1,000 entrepreneurs from around the world, convened to discuss how small business, with an emphasis on technology, will drive Africa’s economy forward.
This was a meeting that attracted the senior leadership of companies like IBM, Google, Microsoft and General Electric. Nairobi is considered the Silicon Valley of Africa. The fact that this dynamic business agenda was translated into another story of despair on the continent of Africa was a tipping point, proving to many that no matter what the reality, Western media will find a negative angle to tell the story when it relates to Africa.
At the opening plenary session for the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, each keynote speaker reacted to the CNN headline. President Obama, President Uhuru Kenyatta, and master of ceremonies Julie Gichuru , took turns at re-writing the CNN headline to say that Kenya is a Hotbed of Innovation, a Hotbed of Entrepreneurship, a Hotbed of Investment Opportunity.
The presidential visit went off without any security breaches, and ultimately, Obama, not the media, drove the US agenda with Kenya in a speech to a stadium of 5000 well wishers. His remarks captured the full and robust set of messages that he wished to deliver as the first US president to visit Kenya, the home of his forefathers.
In the end, Obama’s visit showcased the current strength and ongoing political and economic development of this important nation which anchors East Africa as a hotbed of many qualities, the least of which is terror. If anything, the backlash against the headline helped to galvanize a consistent branding of Kenya as a hotbed of technology and business innovation on the African continent. All in all, not a bad outcome from a negative headline.
Teresa Clarke is Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Africa.Com.