|Written by:||Meshack Masibo|
In a bid to spur the actualization of his big four agenda, President Uhuru Kenyatta recently held a historic meeting with US President Donald Trump in the white house. When the calm but ambitious personality of President Kenyatta met the aggressive and business oriented President Trump the results of the meeting were not easy to predict. However, on a general note it seems to have carried a lot of benefits for both nations.
At a national level The US-Kenya friendship has been a very strong one with both nations tied together in the fight against terrorism and during the cold war era against the communist ideology. Thousands of Kenyans study, work, tour and do business in America with Americans doing the same in Kenya. Although relations between the two countries faltered during President Kenyatta’s first term, the US has remained Kenya’s largest donor providing funding to the tune of Sh100 billion per year to different sectors of the Kenyan economy.
The US is also in the process of replacing its ambassador to Kenya, with Ambassador Bob Godec getting replaced by Kyle McCarter, therefore the meeting provided a starting ground for the two leaders to discuss the next phase of international relations. State House Nairobi had intimated that the meeting will involve discussions on the ways of strengthening the blossoming Kenya-US relations key being multilateral economic programmes such as African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa).
According to official reports the meeting between the two leaders led to the establishment of a new strategic partnership between the US and Kenya. This involved the conclusion of Sh85 billion in commercial deals and engagements with the public and private sector, which will help increase the Sh100 billion annual bilateral trade between the two nations. Other commercial deals involved included plans for a Sh50 billion project to develop a nationwide digital information and communications infrastructure for Kenya, with American companies providing technology and expertise. The leaders also established a US-Kenya Trade and Investment Working Group to deepen the partnership and add to the success of 18 years of trade under the African Growth and Opportunity Act.
On the political side of things Kenya has been added as the newest member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. President Trump and President Kenyatta pledged to deepen the security cooperation and the US will enhance its support for the Kenya Defence Forces. Recently, the US has provided over Sh25 billion in boats, helicopters and airplanes, as well as training and information to support the KDF.
President Kenyatta’s historic visit to the White House makes him the third African leader to hold direct talks with President Trump, the only other two leaders having been Egypt’s President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi in April 2017 and Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari in April this year. The meeting comes at a time when the US is in dire need of strengthening relations with Africa while Kenya wants to increase access of its goods to the American market. It also comes at an opportune time for President Kenyatta who is looking for partners and funding for his Big Four Agenda and just two months before national carrier Kenya Airways begins direct flights to New York.
This also comes at a time when the US exploring the possibility of having bilateral trade agreements with individual African countries that will allow for qualifying African goods to access its markets duty free at the expiry of Agoa in 2022. Nevertheless, the US media had modest views of the meeting terming it a ‘generic’ meeting. Another thing which is thought to have been part of the talks is Kenya’s interest to be the next non permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. Kenya is eyeing the slot for a non-permanent membership between 2021 and 2022 at the elections to be held during the 74th session of the UN in 2020. Kenya’s candidature has been given impetuous following its commitment to fight terror, where over 20,000 top global suspects, have either been killed or arrested by the Kenya Defense Forces and the anti-terror squad. Kenya’s military has been engaged in liberating, assisting in the establishment of an effective democratic government which will effectively kill Somalia as a terrorism cell.
Before President Kenyatta arrived , Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma had led an advance team, and held a series of meetings including one with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Robert Lighthizer, US Trade Representative, to discuss ways of strengthening trade relationship between the two nations. The talks focused on the need to optimise on opportunities available under the Agoa as outlined in the recently launched National Agoa Strategy and Action Plan. The team also held talks with Gil Kaplan, the Under Secretary of Commerce on participation of US companies in the Big Four Agenda as outlined in the MoU signed in June this year between the two nations.