Obama in Kenya: Why the US is investing $500 million in African women

President Obama pledged $1 billion to support entrepreneurship projects worldwide, with half earmarked for women and youth.

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
US President Barack Obama delivers a speech on July 25 at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi, Kenya, where he announced a billion dollars of support for new business worldwide.

President Barack Obama has announced the expansion of entrepreneurial centers in Africa that will benefit 1,600 women entrepreneurs.

The entrepreneurial centers are already open in Kenya and Zambia, and will open soon in Mali.

These community centers, offering resources, education, and training, are expected to create 7,194 new jobs and 630 certified female mentors by October 2016, according to the State Department.

Speaking on Saturday at the sixth annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi, Kenya, the president announced a billion dollars in new investment for emerging entrepreneurs around the world, with half the money going to support women and young people.

"Women are powerhouse entrepreneurs," said President Obama. "The research shows that when women entrepreneurs succeed, they drive economic growth and invest more back into their families and communities."

Of the $1 billion total investment, $100 million will support Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Women initiative, "making more capital available to women-owned enterprises around the world," Obama said.

The President noted entrepreneurship has the potential to be a great equalizer.

"One thing that entrepreneurs understand is, is that you don't have to look a certain way, or be of a certain faith, or have a certain last name in order to have a good idea," he said. "The challenge is – as so many of you know – it’s very often hard to take those first steps," like accessing capital or finding the right mentor. "And it’s even harder for women and young people and communities that have often been marginalized and denied access to opportunities," he added.

NPR reports that Obama has made investing in young African entrepreneurs a focal point of his foreign policy in the region.

"Entrepreneurship offers a positive alternative to the ideologies of violence and division that can all too often fill the void when young people don't see a future for themselves," the president said in his address.

President Obama also said that in order to create successful entrepreneurs, governments also must create transparency, rule of law, and an environment that fights corruption.

A recent report by the World Bank shows that female-run enterprises are steadily growing all over the world, contributing to household incomes and growing national economies. Africa leads in this surging growth, as more sub-Saharan women push themselves out of the shadows to let their entrepreneurial talents shine.

The Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi, Kenya is the first summit held in sub-Saharan Africa. Now in its sixth year, the annual summit brings together entrepreneurs at all stages of business development, business leaders, mentors, and high-level government officials.

"Entrepreneurship brings down barriers between communities and cultures," said Obama at the summit, "and builds bridges that help us take on common challenges together."

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