June 17, 2024

Source: US likely to designate Kenya as key non-NATO ally

US President Joe Biden is expected to name Kenya as a key non-NATO ally during Kenyan President William Ruto’s three-day state visit this week, a source familiar with the plans said.

Kenya is the first sub-Saharan African country to receive this designation. It reflects Washington’s desire to deepen ties with the East African nation, which has long had close ties with Russia and China.

While welcoming Rudo to the White House for a meeting with trade officials, Biden told reporters he wanted to visit Africa in February after the US presidential election. The two leaders will meet again in the Oval Office on Thursday, followed by a joint news conference and state dinner.

Senior administration officials said Biden and Rudo will discuss a range of issues in their meeting, from trade to debt relief and the way forward for Haiti, Ukraine, Sudan and elsewhere.

On Wednesday, Biden said he and Rudo would usher in a new era of technology cooperation between the two countries, including cyber security, artificial intelligence and semiconductors. He did not specify the security position.

The United States will announce $250 million in new investments through the US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), expanding the US finance agency’s portfolio in Kenya to $1 billion, according to DFC.

Both countries are committed to ensuring that technology is developed and used to promote transparency, accountability and human rights, a US official said.

Kenya, like the United States, has emerged as an “innovation engine,” the official said, pointing to the $1 billion Silicon Savannah technology hub that hosts more than 200 startups in sectors including clean energy, microelectronics, financial technology and e-commerce.

Alphabet, Baileys Emerging Markets, a private equity firm specializing in African markets, Kenyan electric bus company BasiGo, global CEO consultancy and advisory firm Teneo and American video game development company Gearbox Software are also participating.

Washington is planning a new semiconductor partnership with Kenya and is working with Congress to make Kenya the first country in Africa to receive funding from the US CHIPS and SCIENCE Act of 2022, an administration official said.

Biden’s announcement of Kenya as a key non-NATO ally comes as Kenya prepares to send troops to Haiti as part of a UN-led force to combat the security crisis in the Caribbean.

This designation is given by the US to cover non-NATO allies that have strategic working relationships with the US military.

The White House had no immediate comment.

Biden declared Qatar a key non-NATO ally of the United States in March, fulfilling a promise he made to Qatar earlier this year.

Jude Moore, director of the Center for Global Development’s Africa Initiative, said while South Africa pursues its own, more independent foreign policy, Kenya has proven to be a reliable and trustworthy partner for the United States.

Cameron Hudson, a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the move would formalize a shift that brought Kenya “even more into the US orbit,” including greater cooperation in Somalia.

“It is very remarkable. There is nothing like it in any other sub-Saharan African country,” he said.