Since assuming office in 2013, President Uhuru Kenyatta has continued to nurture good relationships with powerful world leaders. This has not only contributed to making Kenya a global destination for investments and international summits, it has also boosted Kenya’s profile by improving the overall image of the East African country. President Kenyatta is among the very few leaders from an emerging economy to have attended and addressed the G7 Summit twice; first in Italy during the 2017 edition and in Canada this year.
Consequently, he is set to take advantage of his meetings with U.S. President Donald Trump, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May and China’s President Xi Jinping, which will happen in the space of two weeks, with the hope of securing more mutually beneficial investments into Kenya to boost trade and other partnerships. In what was a defining moment in Kenya’s history, President Kenyatta arrived in Washington, D.C on Monday, August 27, 2018, to meet with President Trump.
First stop, The White House
The meeting at the White House was the first official visit by President Uhuru. He is the second leader from sub-Saharan Africa to be welcomed at the White House since President Trump’s inauguration in January 2017. President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria had visited earlier in the year.
Discussions with President Trump bordered on South Sudan’s peace treaty, straight flights from Kenya to the United States and the Kenya-U.S. bilateral agreements. Kenya is an active player in the ongoing peace talks between South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar, which brought about the peace treaty to end the civil war that started in 2013.
The meeting gave both leaders the opportunity to review the Africa Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA). According to the Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary, Dr Monica Juma, AGOA which strengthens access to the U.S. market for “qualifying Sub-Saharan African countries” continues to be valid till 2025.
“We are proposing the formation of joint teams to review the partnership after 2025. This is to ensure that African countries continue to benefit from this important cooperation,” she said.
After a joint session between delegates from both countries, Kenya’s Trade Principal Secretary, Chris Kiptoo, who represented the Cabinet Secretary, Peter Munya, signed a deal with U.S. Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer to establish a Kenya-U.S. Trade Investment Group. The group will be tasked with the responsibility of exploring all avenues to deepen the trade and investment ties between the two countries.
During his visit to the U.S. President, Uhuru met with top U.S. business executives during which he witnessed the signing of investment deals worth $238 million.
Theresa May’s August visit to Nairobi
President Uhuru meets Prime Minister Theresa May in Nairobi on Thursday, August 30 during her first African tour since becoming Prime Minister in 2016. She is going to be the only U.K. PM visiting Kenya since Margaret Thatcher visited in 1988.
“I am proud to be leading this ambitious trip to Africa and to become the first U.K. Prime Minister in over 30 years to visit Kenya,” she said.
The meeting is happening at a time when leaders from both countries have set specific targets to achieve before the end of their regimes. President Uhuru is committed to fulfilling his promise on health, food security, housing and manufacturing while PM May is seeking fresh alignments for Britain’s economy in the post-Brexit era.
During the announcement of the Trade Mark East Africa £21 million funding aimed at growing Kenya’s external export account, the Deputy British High Commissioner to Kenya, Susie Kitchens said Kenya remains a key trade partner for the U.K. She noted that total trade between both countries stood at approximately 133 billion Kenya Shillings (£1 billion) annually.
“Over half the tea we drink in the U.K. comes from Kenya. As a nation of tea drinkers, we are keen to keep it that way. Similarly, Kenyan roses dominate the U.K. market, and make many Brits happy on Valentine’s Day,” she said.
Aligning with President Xi in Beijing
During the China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) 2018 summit in Beijing which holds in the first week of September, President Uhuru will meet President Xi to discuss issues of mutual interest between the two countries.
Top of the agenda during will be the full implementation of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) project. He will also be seeking additional funding for the Lamu Port and Lamu-Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport project. During his meeting with Chinese Ambassador to Kenya, Sun Baohong, President Uhuru stressed that China is Kenya’s key partner in development.
“It is my hope and prayer to see this SGR project to conclusion. My ambition is to see this new railway reach Lake Victoria not only for economic viability but also to link manufacturing all the way,” he said.
China has been Africa’s largest trade partner for almost a decade with Kenya receiving a significant amount of investments as China seeks to firmly develop a considerable strategic economic and trade relationship with Kenya.
Kenya’s Big Four Agenda
The Big Four is President Uhuru Kenyatta’s legacy programme anchored on improved manufacturing, food security, healthcare and housing. The agenda needs funding because Kenya hopes to raise manufacturing from 8.4 percent to 15 percent of the GDP by 2022, build at least 500,000 housing units a year at an affordable cost and secure food for the population.
Kenya also wants to have at least 70 percent of its population under medical insurance by 2022. The President believes the success of the Big Four Agenda will provide major opportunities for local and foreign investors in areas such as agro-processing, textiles and leather, the maritime sector, construction, iron and steel, and oil and gas, among other sectors.