Driving to the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, my Kenyan driver gestures out his right-side window and says: “That’s the stadium where Obama will be speaking tomorrow”.
Indeed, 60,000 Kenyans swarmed into the Kasarani Stadium on 25 July to hear US president Barack Obama address his father’s homeland. His two-day visit was front page news every day for more than a week prior, while American flags and posters of the president were adorned across the country — from rural villages to the chaotic streets and slums of Nairobi.
Such was the hype over the first visit of the black American president, your correspondent had to head to the airport five hours early, thanks to an ill-timed flight out that coincided with Obama flying in and the consequential roadblocks.
But Kenyans appeared only excited by the presence of their most famous kin. During the stadium speech, Obama praised Kenya for having “come so far in just my lifetime”, highlighting the fact Kenyans no longer needed to leave their native country to seek higher education, while it hosted for the first time the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, coinciding with his visit.
Kenya has the fourth-largest economy on the continent, elevated following a recalculation two years ago to take into account sectors such as communications and property, which saw its gross domestic product (GDP) increase by 25 percent.
The World Bank now considers Kenya as a middle-income country, rather than a low-income one, and the improved economic position has seen the country enjoy flourishing attention from investors, including from the Gulf.
“Increasingly, you see that companies now when they make a decision where they want to position their [African] headquarters it’s either South Africa, Nigeria or Kenya, period,” Cabinet Secretary for the Ministry of East African Affairs, Commerce and Tourism, Phyllis Jepkosgei Kandie, tells Arabian Business. “[The recalculation of the economy] gives us a huge advantage, both in terms of potential investors and our standing in Africa.”
Kenya’s GDP grew by an estimated 5.3 percent to $60.94bn in 2014, according to the African Development Bank. That compares to the continent’s largest economy, Nigeria, with a GDP of $568.5bn. Angola (which has a GDP of $131.4bn) is Africa’s third-largest economy.