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Obamas Africa visit gives off renewed sense of African pride

By Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr./NNPA Columnist
On August 10, 2015

Crowds in Africa throng to President Obama’s speeches. He is the first sitting president to visit Kenya, Ethiopia.
Credit: Pete Souza/White House

(NNPA) – It appears that some people are now realizing what was obvious to me before President Barack H. Obama was re-elected to continue leading the United States of America: He is a Black man. He is an African man.

As the first African American to be president, the unprecedented hostility and threats against him have been racially motivated as well as based on partisan politics.

Yet, Obama continues to be strategic about how he represents his race, genealogy and commitment to promote and sustain African freedom and empowerment.

I believe that Obama’s historic trip to Kenya and Ethiopia is indicative of his distinctive characteristic of taking strategic moves that go far beyond the traditional limitations of American politics and global outreach. This was his fourth trip to Africa. As the first sitting American president to visit Kenya and Ethiopia, his timing could not have been better.

I guess Donald Trump and other so-called Birthers will once again raise politically divisive questions about whether Obama is a real United States citizen. But like the other divisive issues that Trump and others are raising about the “browning of America,” those stiff-neck far right leaders really miss the point.

Like China, the United States should see that its place in the global market place will be increasingly and inextricably linked to having a productive relationship with Africa.

Yes, it was good for President Obama to first reunite with his close relatives in Kenya. The pictures of him hugging his Kenyan sister, Auma Obama, and other relatives in the capital city of Nairobi were very inspiring and affirming of strong family values in both Africa and America.

In truth, however, President Obama’s major objective to achieve in Africa was about trade, economic development, investments, innovation, geopolitical politics, security and the fundamental promotion of African unity and socioeconomic progress. He rendered a keynote speech to the Global Entrepreneur Summit in Nairobi. In fact, going forward there are economic development opportunities for African-American-owned businesses in the U.S. to develop joint ventures with African entrepreneurs.

President Obama strongly affirmed at the summit that, “Africa is on the move.” Referring to entrepreneurial projects that were now being owned and led by women in Kenya and in other nations in Africa, Obama took note and was supportive.

“It’s the spark of prosperity. It helps people stand up for their rights and push back against corruption … [it] means ownership and self-determination, an opportunity to not simply be dependent on somebody else for your livelihood.”

No sitting American president has ever attended or addressed the African Union (AU) while it was in official session in Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia. Ethiopia has the second-largest population in Africa, behind only Nigeria. The economy in Ethiopia is growing and the African nation owns and operates one of the largest airline services on the continent.

President Obama’s speech to the AU was well received by the African heads of state at the meeting. The theme of African unity and mutual economic cooperation was a priority issue.

Lastly, I detected a renewed sense of African pride that was exemplified by the statements and actions of President Obama’s latest trip to Africa. I think that African Americans in particular should also strive to establish more effective unity and cooperative business development in our communities throughout the U.S. In the past, owning our own businesses in America was a source of pride and self-empowerment.

When Obama was introduced at the summit in Kenya, he stated, “Obviously, this is very personal for me. There’s a reason why my name’s Barack Hussein Obama.” He is proud of his name and his Kenyan ancestry.

Auma Obama also said that her father, Barack Hussein Obama Sr., would be very moved to witness his son return to Kenya as the president of the United States. “He’d be extremely proud and say, ‘Well done.”

Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. is the president and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA). Reach him at and

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