The 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit held in Nairobi, Kenya concluded over the weekend. President Obama left Kenya after telling the world, "Kenya is leading the way and... is the largest economy in East Africa." 3 days of networking, workshops and camaraderie amongst entrepreneurs, investors and leaders from all over the world, came to a successful culmination before the US President's departure for Ethiopia. For the last week, social media has been abuzz with news, pictures and memes following President Obama's return to Kenya to co-host the summit alongside Kenya's President Kenyatta. If you were following the top stories during President Obama's return to his father's birth land, you would have come across some interesting and unique side-stories like we did.
#Kiderograss and #SomeoneTellCNN Were Trending Hashtags Used by Kenyans
There were hilarious jokes of a certain #kiderograss that did not grow overnight or in time for the US President's visit. There was a social media blasting directed at CNN by Kenyans using the hashtag #SomeonetellCNN. This started shortly after CNN ran a story where Kenya was referred to as a "hotbed of terror". The online fury of Kenyans may have been kindled somewhat when former CNN correspondent, Zain Verjee, took to her blog to address the exaggerated description of her birth country's current security issues. Verjee offered an explanation and insight on why words such as "hotbed" are used by media. In her post, she asked Kenyans to stop firing at CNN. She urged Kenyans to instead take to social media and their blogs to share the true stories of Africa, using their own voice to influence what Africa is perceived as by the rest of the world.
"Let's put it to bed...We also need to focus on building our own influential storytelling platform where Kenyan voices are heard on a global scale as professionally and authentically." Zain Verjee, Kenyan-born former CNN correspondent
Whether in response to Verjee's call or not, Kenyans have no problem doing just that. They have already began to show the world in their own voice. Now more than ever, Kenyans are proving that their country is ripe with entrepreneurship, teeming with technological innovation and bursting at the seams with potential for international trade.
So while Kenya was busy hosting the business world last week, we on this end were collecting feedback from middle class Kenyans on the ground and all over the world. We spoke to small business owners, retired professionals, skilled craftsmen, fashion influencers, public personalities, social media innovators, moms and dads,brothers and sisters. These and others are who shape Kenya's destiny, not isolated stories of terrorism.
Business Owners, Skilled Professionals, Fashion Influencers, Public Figures and Others Share Their Views
As promoters and facilitators of trade between Kenya, East Africa and the United States, we offer in any way we can, platforms for these Kenyans to let their voices be heard, their work to be seen and their leadership in African business to soar.
As we go to print with this article here is a copy of an email that just came to our box,
"I hope this finds you well. In light of the highly successful and just concluded Global Entrepreneurship Summit 2015 held in Nairobi, I would like to find out if and when you will be coming to Nairobi. There are so many opportunities and most entrepreneurs are so excited and are rating to take advantage of the opportunities that presented themselves. The market is highly charged!"
Following is a collection of short, quick opinions and thoughts we captured in the past few days while chatting with Kenyans of varying ages, across different industries and at various levels of business. Kenyans at home and in the diaspora shared views on POTUS's recent visit and what the recently concluded summit means for Kenya business:
1. What does President Obama's visit mean to you and your business or profession?
- The President's visit opens up doors.
- It meant a lot to me to see President Obama in Kenya. It made me proud as a Kenyan to see my people welcome him so warmly and host him and the rest of the visitors, successfully and in a memorable way.
- Kenya will greatly benefit from the increased American investor interest. Americans will continue to share ideas with Kenyans and aside from financing, technology will be most welcome.
- This (and others alike) is a chance for me to learn about many other businesses that I could venture into. I may also meet new contacts to boost my business and broaden my market through such global conferences.
- My business is in international trade with Kenya so I would have really have liked to be there to see the action in person, I applied but was denied.
- I know some of my business associates agree with me that the smaller guys, the small businesses in Kenya did not have much of a chance to benefit directly from the summit. Many larger companies or well established businesses were represented better than the small startups I feel. But that's why our business exists, we want to make sure that small business owners are not left out as Africa's economy grows.
- His visit will not affect me and my business because the GES has not been open to locals even though it is hosted in Kenya.
- I understand that Obama's visit is business oriented but I am hoping that he can speak a little on the need to help refugees and not condemn them. In business I hope his visit can boost Kenya's visibility on the global stage as a potential investment hub.
2. What products or services do you expect Kenya to sell more of as a result of the summit?
- Kenya's talent is being seen around the world. From the music band Sauti Sol to leading scientist George Siwo of IBM, I believe that Kenya will produce global leaders in business, politics and technology very soon.
- I expect Kenya to improve in all industries but horticulture, agriculture and technology are three areas that most interest me. Kenya can export plenty within those three sectors and become a global leader in many areas.
- Obama's visit puts a brighter spotlight on Kenya as an entrepreneurial hub in Africa.
- During and after the conference I see Kenya selling more hotel and accommodation services, developing conference facilities, increased tourism and increased sales of Kenyan arts and crafts. I also hope to see direct flights by Kenya Airways from Kenya to New York.
- I see Kenya exporting more flowers, apparel and IT related services and solutions.
- Quite simply, because I am in the hospitality industry, I hope to see hotel bookings increase and small businesses such as curio shops do well!
3. In what ways would you like to see Kenya benefit from hosting the summit?
- Kenya should now be viewed as a close friend of the USA hence it should be easier from here for Kenyans to tour the States. We need easier visa processes, more summits like this one and even exchange programs that will give Kenyans the chance to acquire more modern skills and thus making her competitive among other countries.
- Obama's visit should play a key role in my business in terms of creating a better platform of trade between US and Kenya through good relationship and interaction. In the fashion world, it will be easier for me to come up with better tailored good for the US market when relations between the two regions are improved and made easier.
- I attended the final US Presidential debate in South Florida before President Obama's last election into office. I watched Boca Raton and the hosting university improve infrastructure, technology and other local services in preparation for the debate. I hope that Kenya will benefit from such improvements within the country and for the long run, not just for the President's visit.
- We would like the US visa process to be reconsidered for Kenyans, it is too strict, too limiting.
- I hope that Kenya gets the opportunity to host more of these "global get togethers" which will continue to bring investors, tourists and other developments to the country and East Africa as a whole. The country has hosted the leader of the free world, they can host anything now.
- I would definitely like to see more investment in Kenya from multinational corporations with a bigger focus on getting local talent. I would also like to see a lot of the diaspora coming back home and adding to the knowledge pool.
- I hope the leaders in Kenya took the opportunity to pitch for partnerships that sees Kenya start manufacturing. Kenya needs to get into the manufacturing world and we need to flaunt our creative and service capabilities. This is a chance of a life time. If the leaders focus on marginal issues this would be considered a missed opportunity.
- I see the youth getting motivated into entrepreneurship with global approach rather than thinking of being employed. I also see increased partnerships for Kenyans on international levels.
- Tech services and consulting are sectors that I feel will be huge for Kenya
- As a patriot I hope that this summit gives a better image of Kenya and not the image of insecurity that has come to be associated with the country.
- Hope the summit will result in more investors for Kenya
- I hope that Kenya can gain some political, social, and economic capital that will push it to th next level of development. Kenyans can begin to view themselves as role models for subsaharan Africa.