As Blinken meets with Kenyatta, here are key areas of cooperation between U.S. and Kenya

U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken will participate in a virtual visit to Kenya on Tuesday and meet with President Uhuru Kenyatta and Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs Ambassador Raychelle Omamo. 

President Uhuru Kenyatta at a past interview event. [Source:Uhuru Kenyatta:Facebook] 
President Uhuru Kenyatta

Secretary Blinken, President Kenyatta, and Cabinet Secretary Omamo are expected to discuss “areas for continued cooperation [which] include advancing prosperity, defense cooperation, democracy and human rights, refugees, gender equality, regional stability and multilateral cooperation, public health, and climate change.” 

A “strategic partnership” between the U.S. and Kenya was established in 2018 and went into force at the countries’ first Bilateral Strategic Dialogue (BSD) in 2019. The relationship focuses on “five pillars” of mutual interests, each which is expected to be discussed during the visit today. 

The two countries are currently “deciding next steps” in negotiations on a bilateral Free Trade Agreement, the first such agreement between the U.S. and a country in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

Besides an important trading partner, the U.S. considers Kenya a “critical” security partner in East Africa. Notably, the U.S. is conducting a two-year U.S. Coast Guard program to train the new Kenya Coast Guard Service.

The U.S. also supports Kenya’s humanitarian efforts as it hosts over 500,000 refugees and asylum seekers from a number of countries in the region. 

The two countries have also worked to strengthen “people-to-people ties” through exchange programs, tourism, and business. 

Below are key areas of cooperation between the United States and Kenya, according to a U.S. government fact sheet released on Tuesday 

Pandemic Response 

  • The United States and Kenya have collaborated closely to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, reduce secondary economic impacts, and restrict non-essential travel across borders, while also addressing the economic challenges of reduced mobility.
  • The United States has committed $2 billion to the Global Alliance on Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) to support COVID-19 vaccine procurement and distribution through the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) program. In March 2021. Kenya received 1.02 million doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine through the COVAX program.
  • In 2020, the United States provided more than $23.3 million in overall health and humanitarian assistance for the COVID-19 response to Kenya.

Bilateral Economic Ties

  • In July 2020, the United States and Kenya launched trade negotiations. The two sides are currently reviewing the negotiations before deciding next steps. The Kenyan economy currently benefits from participation in the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). 
  • The United States imported $568.9 million in goods from Kenya and exported $370.8 million of products to Kenya in 2020. Over the last decade, the United States and Kenya have exchanged over $1 billion in annual trade, while Kenyans receive over $1 billion annually in remittances from the diaspora in the United States.

U.S. Security Cooperation in Kenya

  • Kenya is a critical U.S. security partner in East Africa, especially in the fight against al-Shabaab.
  • The Department of State helps build the capacity of the Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) to advance counterterrorism, border security, maritime security, and broader professionalization efforts. Assistance includes equipment, training, advisory support, and infrastructure to develop key institutional and tactical capabilities. The United States commenced funding in 2021 for a two-year U.S. Coast Guard program through the Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement to train the new Kenya Coast Guard Service. 
  • The United States contributed $17 million in counterterrorism law enforcement assistance in 2020, which was focused on strengthening the rule of law, border security coordination, community engagement, and terrorism response. 

Governance and Human Rights

  • The United States works closely with Kenya to strengthen institutions and processes at the national and local levels in order to increase public participation in governance, transparency, and accountability; advance gender equality and women’s empowerment; improve the operating space for civil society and the media; improve upon our shared commitment to human rights with Kenya’s security forces, including in combatting violent extremism (CVE) efforts; and support preparations for credible and transparent elections in 2022. 
  • Kenya hosts over 500,000 refugees and asylum seekers from Somalia, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, and other countries in the region. In FY 2020, the United States provided nearly $106 million for refugee protection and humanitarian assistance to support Kenya’s efforts, which includes the assistance mentioned above for pandemic response. 

People-to-People Ties

  • Over 200 Kenyans participate in the U.S. government-sponsored in-person and virtual exchange programs annually, and the alumni community has more than 5,000 members. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, our five American Spaces in Kenya received more than 250,000 visitors per year. 
  • Over 250,000 Americans visited Kenya in 2019 and some 36,000 Americans are currently residents.
  • Several U.S. corporations have regional headquarters in Nairobi. According to a report by William & Mary’s Global Research Institute, the U.S. bilateral relationship directly provides the Kenyan people over $3 billion annually, through trade, investment, assistance, and people-to-people ties. 

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