Kenya’s global profile soars after Ruto’s US visit

Kenya’s global profile soars after Ruto’s US visit, President William Ruto (Right) and his host US President Joe Biden (Left). The visit highlights the country as an important investment destination, its crucial role in regional security and stability and fast-rising status as a digital hub

President William Ruto’s historic State Visit to the US last week has elevated Kenya’s international standing, marking a significant moment for the country’s diplomatic relations. The visit highlighted Kenya as an important investment destination, its crucial role in regional security and stability and fast-rising status as a digital hub in the continent.

Kenya without doubt won big during the visit after bagging various multibillion shillings deals that span across various sectors, including healthcare, education, road and transport, digital technology, security, agriculture and climate mitigation. The impact of the deals would certainly transcend beyond the borders, spreading the country’s influence.

“We are stronger – and the world is safer – when Kenya and the United States work together,” US President Joe Biden said. Kenya, said President Biden, would be designated as a key non-NATO ally, making it the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to have the symbolic title.

Kenya emerges as a key US ally in sub-Saharan Africa as two countries deepen 60-year ties. The visit highlights the country as an important investment destination, its crucial role in regional security and stability and fast-rising status as a digital hub

The designation reflects Kenya’s role in regional security, especially in counter terrorism operations and raises its standing from a regional player to a global partner. As a non-NATO ally, Kenya joins other countries with the title namely Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Brazil, Colombia, Egypt, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, New Zealand, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, South Korea, Thailand and Tunisia. Kenya will further receive multiple security equipment including helicopters and Armored Security Vehicles from the US to strengthen the country’s security operations, including the fight against terrorism especially in Somalia where the nation has 5,000 troops.

President Ruto’s State Visit further kickstarts a new era of technology cooperation with the US, including in areas such as AI, semi-conductor making, cybersecurity, data and internet access. During the tour, Kenya signed with Microsoft and its partner G42 a deal worth Sh132 billion ($1 billion) to implement various tech infrastructure projects revolving around AI and data in a project dubbed the Comprehensive Digital Ecosystem Initiative. This is the largest single private-sector digital investment in Kenya and would accelerate digital investments in the country. One of the deliverables under the project is the building of a state-of-the-art green data Centre in Olkaria, Naivasha, which will run entirely on renewable geothermal energy, supporting Kenya’s green energy agenda.

President William Ruto (Left) and his host US President Joe Biden (right) at the White House.

Through the Centre, Kenya is expected to benefit from cloud data opportunities and business since Microsoft and G42 will work with the ICT Ministry to design and operate the new East Africa Cloud Region as part of a “trusted data zone” based on global standards to protect digital safety, privacy and security. “With technical assistance and support from G42 and Microsoft, Kenya will establish the new data Centre as part of a “trusted data zone” under which data from other countries may be governed by their local laws, even while stored and resident in Kenya,” Microsoft said in a statement.

Kenya, which has been pushing for a more connected Africa, received a boost through its partnership with Google, which announced the first ever fibre optic cable to directly connect Africa with Australia. The cable dubbed Umoja is anchored in Kenya, and will pass through Uganda, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa, “before crossing the Indian Ocean to Australia. Umoja’s terrestrial path was built in collaboration with Liquid Technologies to form a highly scalable route through Africa, including access points that will allow other countries to take advantage of the network,” said Google.

The US has also committed to designate Kenya as a semi-conductor partner, with the country becoming the first in Africa to benefit from funding in the Chips and Science Act of 2022, which provides Sh6.9 trillion to boost the production of computer chips in and out of the US.

“This designation will cement Kenya-US tech industry relationships. Kenya will be among less than 10 countries with that status, unlocking new market and opportunities for investments,” ICT PS, Eng. John Tanui said.

These investments are a huge benefit to Kenya’s digital transformation agenda, where the government is providing free public Wi-Fi, has pushed over 16,000 services online, trained over 390,000 youths in digital skills and is working to build 100,000km of fibre optic cable. Trade across East Africa will also benefit once the construction of a 440km Mombasa-Nairobi expressway is completed.

Kenya National Highways Authority (KENHA) signed Sh471 billion ($3.6 billion) deal with US infrastructure investment manager Ever strong Capital that will see the building of the highway enhancing movement of goods from port of Mombasa to neighbouring countries. The road makes the Northern Corridor, which links landlocked countries of the Great Lakes Region, including Uganda and Rwanda to the sea-port of Mombasa.

Fergus Kell, the Projects Manager and Research Analyst, Africa Programme at Catham House, observed that in President Ruto, the US has found an assertive international leader, “with a track record of promoting African solidarity and a keen awareness of the new partnerships possible in a multipolar world.” He added that visit offered policymakers in US and Kenya an opportunity to strengthen “foundations for long-term partnership”.

President Ruto said the agreements arising from the State Visit represent a strategic investment in Kenya’s future, promising significant economic growth, job creation, and improved quality of life for its citizens. For the United States, these deals not only strengthen ties with a key African country, but also open up new opportunities for trade and geopolitical influence in the region.

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