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US expected to designate Kenya as major non-Nato ally as Biden hosts Ruto in state visit

WorldUS expected to designate Kenya as major non-Nato ally as Biden hosts Ruto in state visit

The two leaders will meet again in the Oval Office on Thursday, followed by a joint news conference and a state dinner.

Kenya’s President William Ruto and US President Joe Biden. Photo: AP

Ruto’s is the first state visit to Washington by an African leader in more than 16 years.

The last state visit to the US by an African leader was in 2008, when then Ghanaian President John Kufuor was welcomed by George W. Bush.

Since then, engagement from countries such as the UAE, China and France have overshadowed the US, which for years has been focused on security agreements and humanitarian aid.

Senior administration officials said Biden and Ruto would discuss a range of issues from trade to debt relief and the way forward for Haiti, Ukraine, Sudan and other areas during their meeting.

On Wednesday, Biden said he and Ruto would launch a new era of technology cooperation between the two countries that would include work on cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and semiconductors. He did not mention the security designation.

The US will also announce US$250 million in new investments through the US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), expanding the US financing agency’s portfolio in Kenya to over US$1 billion, DFC said.

A media preview showing dishes for the state dinner. Photo: EPA-EFE

Both countries share a commitment to ensuring technology is developed and deployed in a manner that advances transparency, accountability, and human rights, a US official said.

Kenya, like the United States, has become “an engine for innovation”, the official said, citing its US$1 billion “Silicon Savannah” technology hub that is home to more than 200 start-ups spanning a range of sectors, including clean energy, microelectronics, financial technology, and e-commerce.

Businesses that took part included Alphabet; Baylis Emerging Markets, a private equity firm specialising in African markets; BasiGo, a Kenyan electric bus company; Teneo, a global CEO consulting and advisory firm, and Gearbox Software, which is an American video game development company.

Washington also plans a new semiconductor partnership with Kenya, and is working with Congress to make it the first country in Africa to benefit from funding through the US Chips and Science Act of 2022, an administration official said.

Biden’s designation of Kenya as a major non-Nato ally comes as it is preparing to send forces to Haiti as part of a UN-led force deploying to address the security crisis in the Caribbean.

The designation is granted by the United States to close, non-Nato allies that have strategic working relationships with the US military.

The White House had no immediate comment.

Biden in March designated Qatar as a major non-Nato ally of the US, fulfilling the promise he had made to Qatar earlier in the year.

Gyude Moore, head of the Africa Initiative at the Centre for Global Development, said Kenya had proven to be a dependable and reliable partner for the US at a time when South Africa was pursuing its own more independent foreign policy.

Cameron Hudson, a fellow at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, said the move would formalise a shift that has seen Kenya “move more squarely into a US orbit” in recent years, including greater cooperation on Somalia.

“It’s very significant. No other sub-Saharan African country has it,” he said.

Additional reporting by Bloomberg

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