It’s Costing Taxpayers $7 Million for Summit to Talk About Entrepreneurs

Obama attending two-day conference in Kenya

President Obama
President Obama / AP
July 23, 2015

Staging and production for a global summit in Kenya where President Barack Obama will speak are costing taxpayers $7 million.

Obama is making his first presidential visit to the African country to attend the sixth Global Entrepreneurship Summit, which is being held at the United Nations office near the U.S. embassy in Nairobi on Saturday and Sunday.

According to government contracts, staging, teleprompters, break out rooms, prayer rooms, and other logistics for the two-day event will cost $7 million.

A justification and approval document issued by the Department of State on Wednesday showed that the agency hired Hargrove Productions, a special events company based in Maryland, to run the event.

The contract called for "visually compelling, distinctive summit branding within event and meeting space and around the venue."

Among the amenities needed for the summit include providing a stage for the main hall to fit 1,500 people, as well as a "podium, teleprompter, press risers, cameras, backdrop décor, audio, and broadcast-quality lighting."

The company will also provide 50 workstations for U.S. government employees, breakout rooms, workshop space, WiFi, on-site catering for 1,500 attendees, and prayer rooms.

According to the document, Hargrove Productions has a "long history with providing services to State Department staff and the White House," and helped run the Combating Violent Extremism summit held at the White House in February.

The State Department said the summit is a "one time event that was recently announced and did not allow the DOS the ability to plan months in advance," explaining its decision to award the contract outside the normal competitive bidding process.

The Global Entrepreneurship Summit is an annual event that President Obama kicked off during his speech in Cairo in 2009. The State Department said this year’s summit will "bring together thousands of young entrepreneurs along with businesses, government, investment banking and private/public partnership leaders."

Previous summits were held in Washington, D.C., Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, and Morocco, before landing in Kenya this year.

The visit marks the first for Obama, who has several half siblings and other relatives living in Kenya, during his presidency.

Kenyans are reportedly so excited about his visit they are changing the ringtones on their cellphones to audio of Obama reading a speech.

Published under: Government Spending