Photo by Tony Cece

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Ambassador Shares Kenya Opportunities and Challenges

October 31, 2012

Hearing the name Kenya evokes an image of a country that's home to safaris and long-distance runners, but this African nation is far more complex and on a trajectory to become a key player in the global economy. His Excellency, Elkanah Odembo, ambassador to the United States from the Republic of Kenya, spent Wednesday, Oct. 24, at Regent to learn more about the university's programs in Kenya and share some of his nation's opportunities and challenges.
Ambassador Odembo's visit was the first in Regent's Office of Global Affairs Ambassador Series, which brings diplomats to Regent for personal interaction with faculty, staff and students to provide global insights for academia, community service and career growth.

"Regent's mission is to educate global leaders, and part of that education involves providing opportunities for our students to interact with global leaders," said Dr. Sergio Matviuk, executive director of the Office of Global Affairs.

His Excellency, Elkanah Odembo, ambassador to the United States from the Republi
His Excellency, Elkanah Odembo, ambassador
to the United States from the
Republic of Kenya, speaks at Regent.
During the day, Odembo participated in meetings with university leaders, including President Carlos Campo, as well as deans of Regent's eight schools and Professional and Continuing Education division. He learned more about Regent's work in Kenya and also discussed other opportunities for education and training.

"I'm very happy about the work that Regent is beginning to do in Kenya," Odembo said, speaking at the university's weekly chapel service. "Universities must have a global outlook and take a global approach. That's what I see at Regent, and it will yield significant fruit."

Regent's initiatives in Kenya include plans to offer Africa's first faith-based Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership, in conjunction with Pan Africa Christian University, as well as ongoing discussions to provide teacher training. Regent's Center for Entrepreneurship has an affiliate that is helping to revitalize communities through business initiatives. This past summer, Regent's Trauma Team spent two weeks in Kenya, providing crisis and group counseling and offering training workshops for local mental health professionals, pastors, school children and families in the region.

One of the highlights of the ambassador's visit was his presentation to more than 150 students from Regent, Tidewater Community College, several private high schools and seven of Virginia Beach's public high schools, including Princess Anne's International Baccalaureate program and Tallwood's Global Studies Academy.

In a wide-ranging discussion, Odembo focused on Kenya's efforts in economic development. He noted that Kenya is taking a lead role to strengthen regional economic communities so that African nations do more business with each other, do more business globally and uplift the entire continent. Kenya, which has the strongest economy in east Africa, is looking for more companies to join the many companies with a large presence there, including GE, IBM and Coca-Cola.

He also talked about the nation's major investments in education, which is critical because Kenya has a very young population who need appropriate educational opportunities to become productive citizens.

Odembo openly addressed the challenges in the "horn of Africa," which has been a fairly unstable region due to problems in countries such as Somalia, Uganda, Rwanda and Sudan. He pointed out Kenya's role in promoting peace and security, such as assisting a transitional government in Somalia and helping to support a refugee camp in Kenya—the largest in the world—that has about 600,000 people living in an area designed for 60,000. "Across the board, changes are happening in Kenya and in Africa," he said. "In governance, leadership and economic development—very important things are happening."

Students demonstrated good knowledge of issues in Africa, as they posed questions to the ambassador on topics including Kenyan government policies to promote investment, U.S. policy toward Kenya and Africa, managing the challenge of ethnic tension in the region, and Kenya's new constitution, which was adopted in 2010.

Odembo has held senior-level positions at philanthropic and non-governmental organizations in east Africa for more than two decades, advocating for human rights and social justice. Before his appointment as ambassador to the U.S. in June 2010, he previously served as Kenya's ambassador to France. He has a bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College and a master's degree from the University of Texas.

Learn more about Regent's global activities.

Mindy Hughes, Public Relations

Phone: 757.352.4095 Fax: 757.352.4888

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