President Obama Visits Kenya This Week for the Global Entrepreneurship Summit
Prof. Andrew Lubin Shares An Open Letter to The President of the United States
Dear Mr. President:
As you prepare for your trip to Kenya and Ethiopia, it’s a good moment to ask if you want to leave an African legacy. It's not as if you've ignored Africa; you took office in the midst of the worst economic collapse since 1929 while Iraq and Afghanistan simultaneously demanded your full attention. Then came the Arab Spring, Putin & Ukraine, and China's move into the South China Sea. But now it's Africa's turn.
With only 18 months remaining in your presidency, this is a perfect time to kick off an African Initiative. Since you've been busy negotiating with the Iranians, Afghans, Iraqi's, and the GOP, allow me to me make a few suggestions:
Let's remember most of the African economies are small-scale, agricultural, and people-intensive, so play to those strengths:
1. Humanitarian: Two major issues here: 1-Ebola, 2-A lack of clean drinking water. Solve these, and Africa booms:
- If Ebola spreads due to a lack of sanitation, then form a task force to solve the sanitation issue. Let USAID lead it, and enlist the Gates Foundation, the CDC, Doctors without Borders, and others to handle the boots-on-the-ground work. Ebola may not disappear, but if you can improve the sanitation issue, Ebola's reduced to a 1-person sad statistic instead of a 10,000 death epidemic. And it makes those countries better places to live, raise families, create jobs.
- Clean Water: Do you know that 90% of infant-child mortality comes from water-borne diseases? The add-on is that an inability to provide clean water is an illustration of a government's inability to provide basic services. Instruct USAID to work with the private US companies who can supply portable potable water systems...getting these potable-water units up-country will serve as a hub for schools, clinics, and small business. Putting these little units up-country will serve as business incubators for Africa's hard-working entrepreneurs – along with showing the citizens they have a capable, competent government capable of providing basic services.
2. Security Issues: Although Libya and Sudan are failed states in the midst of civil wars, the US can assist in other countries: France has 3,000+ troops spread across Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad. Their mission is to disrupt the Islamic extremists across the Sahel, and keep them out of West Africa. The EU added 600 more troops to the French's efforts; you want to offer these forces the maximum in logistical and intelligence support.
Offer the same to Nigeria's popularly-elected President Muhammadu Buhari, plus offer him training assistance and small arms/ammunition/equipment. Unlike the Nigerian Army, Boko Haram will fight, and Buhari needs to find generals who will install a 'will to fight' in their soldiers. American support will bolster their will. Helping Nigeria defeat Boko Haram will have instant, positive repercussions in the Sahel, Mali, Niger, and Kenya's fight against Al-Shabaab. And publicly offer the same support to Kenya, our best friend in East Africa.
Do you know (Nairobi) Kenya's Westgate Mall reopened this past weekend? What a testament to the guts and courage of the Kenyan people. While supporting them is morally the right thing to do, Kenya also serves as the logistics and financial hub into Uganda, Rwanda, eastern Zaire, southern Ethiopia, and South Sudan. Jobs give people the incentive to not turn to extremists, and jobs and a stable life also give people the incentive to fight extremists - making Africa safe from Islamic extremism is a legacy worth pursuing.
3. Economic: While you're in Kenya, what an opportunity to build on the African Growth & Opportunity Act! The 10 year extension was overwhelmingly passed three weeks ago, and the AGOA remains the most important legislation between the United States and sub-Saharan Africa, with exports increasing from $ 8.15 billion (2001) to 2011's $ $53.8 billion. However 95% of it was oil, gas, minerals, cocoa, all of which are big-dollar/ big company items that produced little new employment. But since part the new AGOA is a provision that will strengthen the trade capacity of smallholder women farmers, task the Dept of Agriculture, Dept of Commerce, and the SBA to assist in making their products exportable. Kenya and Ethiopia can export more than coffee and handicrafts; use your trip to the Entrepreneurs Conference to spur their trade with America.
Can you do this in the next 18 months? Yes, and an add-on effect is that the young Africans students studying here (in the United States) will want to return home knowing that building their own businesses builds their own countries. These young African entrepreneurs will match your efforts – knowing how far they've come on their own; imagine what can be done with America's assistance – what a legacy - Good luck!!
"Charlie Battery : A Marine Artillery Battery in Iraq"
2007 Gold Medal - Military Writers Society of America
USMC Combat Correspondant Association
For more information on the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, www.ges2015.org
For more information on mobile water purification systems for East Africa, email firstname.lastname@example.org