Kenyan Prime Minister addresses NU community at Kellogg

Lauren Mogannam

Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga spoke at the Owen L. Coon Forum on Wednesday. Organizers moved
the event from a smaller venue to accommodate an unexpectedly large audience.
Sean Collins Walsh/The Daily Northwestern

About 50 students waited outside of a Kellogg School of Management lecture room crammed full of students, faculty and staff Wednesday afternoon. The students waited to be allowed past security to hear Raila Amolo Odinga, the prime minister of the Republic of Kenya, speak as part of an African Business Club event. At 5:15 p.m., all were told to “not stampede” their way to the Owen L. Coon Forum to make room for everyone who wanted to attend.

“You would think the president were here,” said one of the attendees as he rushed with a peer to get a good seat to see the prime minister.

About 200 people gathered in Coon Forum for the African Business Club’s “Leadership in Crisis Situations” event featuring Odinga.

The prime minister discussed the many challenges global leaders face in times of crisis and his experience as a political figure in Kenya.

“In leading, you sometimes have to take drastic positions to deal with crucial issues,” he said.

Odinga hails from a well-known Kenyan political family. His late father was the first vice president in post-independence Kenya. Odinga served as a member of the Kenyan parliament and was the Orange Democratic Movement’s presidential candidate for the 2007 election. In 2008, he was appointed Kenya’s second prime minister. He is also the first prime minister of any country to speak at Kellogg.

Odinga’s experience in dealing with crisis situations and his outlook on what crises can be is what made him an ideal speaker, said Kitso Lemo, co-president of the African Business Club.

“It is important to bring perspectives from different parts of the world and let people get insight from an international leader,” the first-year Kellogg student said.

Although Kellogg is a “global school,” there is more focus on parts of the world other than Africa, so it was important to feature a prominent African leader, said club co-President Abdul-Nasser Alidu.

“I was passionate about having an African leader speak because it is important that we get exposed to a global environment,” the first-year Kellogg student said.

Even though Kenya is experiencing a severe economic recession along with the rest of the world, Odinga said crises are not only financial but deal with an array of problems, such as climate change and ethnic wars.

“When we talk about crises we think about Wall Street,” Alidu said. “His perspective of different crisis situations drives the point that we are not just talking about financial crisis.”

Questions for Odinga ranged from visas to ethnicity and aid. The topic of foreign aid to Africa received the greatest response from attendees. According to Odinga, aid is not a solution to the problems in Africa. Aid money ends up “lining the pockets” of the rich, Odinga said.

“We are not cripples that need to be aided,” he said. “We want to do it ourselves.”

Instead of aid, Africa needs foreign investment and trade, he said.

Odinga’s emphasis on the problems with foreign aid was encouraging to economists, said Mark Chicu, an economics Ph.D. student.

“Building some kind of self-reliance and strong institutions and investment within the country, instead of just throwing them aid, are keys to help developing countries move forward,” he said. “His desire to have that is positive.”

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