Friday, 22 July 2016

Pause: __“Hard things are hard.”

Image credit: Robb Hohmann/USAID
Yesterday was a very special day for me and I’ve been looking forward to sharing it with all of you. I was given the honor by the White House to introduce President Barack Obama to a global audience, and to talk about the efforts during his Presidency, to help the poor throughout the world.

There are certain moment in life when you just say Wow! and this was one of those moments.

The event was the White House Summit on Global Development which brought together top global experts to talk about the progress that President Obama and his Administration have made possible in energy, food security, global health, good governance, development partnerships and youth initiatives around the world.

I first met then Senator Obama 10 years ago over lunch in Johannesburg, on one of his many visits to Africa. He had sought me out because he knew I was part of a small group of African and global leaders who had been assembled by out-going UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. We had to find solutions to address hunger, food security and nutrition in Africa.

During our lunch, I quickly recognized Senator Obama as a man of great vision – a leader with a heart not just for the people in his own country, but for the whole world, and for the African continent in particular.

He did not need me to tell him that women smallholder farmers are the backbone for agriculture in the developing world, or that in parts of Africa and India, close to 40% of children are stunted, or that over one billion people still have no access to electricity. He already knew.

__He also understood it required bold leadership and unprecedented cooperation on the part of governments, donors, philanthropists, civil society and the private sector to address these issues.

President Obama’s presidency has been a testament to this vision. Even as the global financial crisis into which he was elected raged around him, he put global development at the center from the very beginning, and he stayed the course.

# He was truly an eagle in a storm!

As President, he’s championed major initiatives such as:

# Power Africa, to bring electricity and economic growth to sub-Saharan Africa;

# Feed the Future to dramatically improve food security and nutrition;

# The Young African Leadership Initiative to nurture the next generation of leaders;

# The Global Entrepreneurship Summit to pivot our focus to entrepreneurship and job creation… and more, much more.

Even when the Ebola crisis threatened to blow everything away, he was there too, personally and deeply engaged in taking decisive steps to mobilize the world… again, an eagle in a storm!

When I first met him, he was Senator Obama, a promising leader who’d just published his book, “The Audacity of Hope.” Now even as his Presidency of the US draws to a close, I have no doubt he’ll continue his visionary global leadership, transforming that hope into innovative actions to help the poorest of the poor uplift themselves to prosperity.

As the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, James MacGregor Burns, wrote: “The most lasting tangible act of leadership is the creation of an institution – a nation, a social movement, a political party, a bureaucracy – that continues to exert moral leadership and foster needed social change long after the creative leaders are gone.”

In this post, I’ve shared with you some of the exact words from my introduction of President Obama. Let me close now by saying again: “Mr President: On behalf of all the hundreds of millions of people whose lives you touched and continue to touch through the initiatives you launched: Asante Sana, Tinotenda, Amhlope. Thank you.”

By Strive Masiyiwa.

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