U.S. President Barack Obama ended his historic tour of East Africa with a speech Tuesday at the African Union headquarters in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa. It was the first time a sitting American president addressed the 54-member regional bloc, which promotes peace and security throughout Africa. Obama said it was time for the world to change its approach to Africa during his keynote speech.
“I stand before you as a proud American. I also stand before you as the son of an African,” Obama said during his address Tuesday. “A half century into this independence era, it is long past time to put aside old stereotypes of an Africa forever mired in poverty and conflict. The world must recognize Africa’s extraordinary progress."
The U.S. president embarked on the five-day, two-nation trip to Africa last Friday, starting with a visit to Kenya, the homeland of his late father. It was the first time Obama traveled to Kenya during his presidency. While in the capital city of Nairobi, Obama co-hosted the sixth annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and held bilateral talks on business development, security, human rights and LGBT equality. The American president’s comments on gay rights came on the heels of protests against LGBT rights in Kenya , where homosexuality is illegal.
— eNCA (@eNCA) July 28, 2015
Obama and his high-profile entourage flew to Ethiopia Sunday, making history once again as the first sitting U.S. president to visit the country. While in the capital city, Obama met with African leaders, including African Union chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, to discuss regional terrorism and South Sudan’s civil war. He also held a joint press conference with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, during which Obama pressed the Ethiopian government to clean up its record on human rights and good governance. However, Obama drew criticism from human rights groups when he described the Ethiopian government as “democratically elected” after a controversial election cycle in the East African country that was largely deemed illegitimate.
Earlier Tuesday, Obama emphasized his administration's efforts to combat world hunger while touring a factory operated by Faffa Foods, which is the main supplier of baby food for Ethiopian children and also participates in the U.S. Feed the Future program. The U.S. government announced $140 million in investments to the program aimed at getting climate-resilient seeds to smallholder farmers in 11 African nations. Approximately 44 percent of Ethiopian children under the age of 5 suffer from chronic malnourishment, according to U.S. Agency for International Development .
“The goal is to drastically increase the productivity of small farmers all throughout Africa because what we know is that a huge percentage of Africans are still getting their incomes from agriculture and most of them are very small plots, and not a lot of technology,” the U.S. president said Tuesday. "But with just a few smart interventions, a little bit of help, they can make huge improvements in their overall yield.”
The U.S. president was scheduled to arrive back at the White House in Washington, D.C. early Wednesday, according to the Associated Press .