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Faith Nyasuguta

US President Joe Biden is expected to designate Kenya as a major non-NATO ally during a three-day state visit by Kenyan President William Ruto this week, according to a source familiar with the plans. 

Kenya would be the first Sub-Saharan African country to receive this designation, highlighting Washington’s efforts to strengthen ties with a nation that also maintains close relations with Russia and China.

As he welcomed Ruto to the White House for a meeting with business executives, Biden told reporters he planned to visit Africa in February, following the US presidential election. The two leaders will meet again in the Oval Office on Thursday, followed by a joint news conference and a state dinner. 

Senior administration officials said Biden and Ruto would discuss a range of issues, including trade, debt relief, and the situations in Haiti, Ukraine, Sudan, and other areas.

On Wednesday, Biden announced the launch of a new era of technology cooperation between the US and Kenya, which would include work on cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and semiconductors. He did not mention the security designation at that time. 

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

A US official stated that both countries share a commitment to ensuring technology is developed and deployed in a manner that advances transparency, accountability, and human rights. Kenya has become an “engine for innovation,” with its $1 billion “Silicon Savannah” technology hub hosting over 200 startups in sectors such as clean energy, microelectronics, financial technology, and e-commerce. 

Businesses involved in the discussions included Alphabet, Baylis Emerging Markets, BasiGo, Teneo, and Gearbox Software.

Washington also plans a new semiconductor partnership with Kenya and is working with Congress to make it the first African country 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 Kenya prepares to send forces to Haiti as part of a UN-led mission to address the security crisis in the Caribbean. 

Kenyan President William Ruto (Left) and US President Joe Biden /Daily Nation/

This 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 on the matter.

Earlier this year, in March, Biden designated Qatar as a major non-NATO ally of the US, fulfilling a promise made to the Arab country. Gyude Moore, head of the Africa Initiative at the Center for Global Development, noted that Kenya has proven to be a dependable and reliable partner for the US, especially as South Africa pursues a more independent foreign policy. 

Cameron Hudson, a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said this move would formalize Kenya’s shift towards closer alignment with the US, particularly in cooperation on issues like Somalia. “It’s very significant. No other sub-Saharan African country has it,” he added.

The designation reflects a strategic deepening of relations between the US and Kenya, aiming to enhance collaboration on various fronts while acknowledging Kenya’s pivotal role in regional and international affairs.


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Faith Nyasuguta

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