Biden and Kenya’s Ruto to announce new investments as they seek deeper ties

By Thomson Reuters May 23, 2024 | 4:08 AM

By Jarrett Renshaw

(Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden and Kenyan President William Ruto will announce on Thursday investments in green energy and health manufacturing in the east African nation and a plan to reduce its debt burden, a senior U.S. administration official said.

Ruto arrived in the U.S. on Wednesday as part of three-day state visit that includes bilateral talks with Biden on Thursday followed by a lavish state dinner in the evening. Ruto’s trip the sixth state visit hosted by the Biden administration, and the first for an African president since 2008.

Africa’s political landscape has been upended in the past year by a spate of military coups, wars and shaky elections that have given U.S. rivals China and Russia greater influence. Biden hopes strengthening ties with Kenya can help stabilize the continent and advance U.S. interests.

On Thursday, Biden will designate Kenya as a major non-NATO ally, making it the first sub-Saharan African country to receive the designation, a senior U.S. administration official said. Currently, 18 countries are designated as non-NATO allies, including Israel, Brazil and the Philippines.

The leaders are also expected to announce new U.S. backed investments in green energy and health manufacturing, along with a detailed plan to cut Kenya’s high debt load, most of which is owed to China, a senior administration official said.

The U.S. will announce $250 million in new investments in Kenya through the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation including $180 million for a major affordable housing project, a U.S. government official said. That will bring the U.S. financing agency’s portfolio in Kenya to over $1 billion.

The humanitarian crisis in Haiti will be a focus as Kenya prepares to deploy 1,000 paramilitary officers to the Caribbean country as part of U.N.-led effort to curb gang violence and hunger in the Caribbean country.

Biden said he plans an official visit to Africa in February after the U.S. presidential election, an announcement that presumed he will defeat Donald Trump. Biden pledged to make a trip to Africa sometime in 2023, but it never materialized.

Ruto will be celebrated at a dinner lit by 1,000 candles and a menu of heirloom tomato soup, butter-poached lobster, smoked beef short ribs and a white chocolate dessert.

Country singer Brad Paisley will headline the dinner along with the Howard University Gospel Choir, both of which are tributes to Ruto’s musical interests.

(Reporting By Jarrett Renshaw; Additional reporting by Andrea Shalal and Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Don Durfee and Cynthia Osterman)