President Ruto starts historic US State visit

President William Ruto.

President William Ruto.

Photo credit: PCS

What you need to know:

  • The State visit, the first by an African leader in 15 years, will kick off today in Atlanta.
  • President Ruto’s will, however, be only the third State visit since independence.
  • President Ruto to meet and hold talks with the Mayor of Atlanta, Andre Dickens.

President William Ruto starts his historic trip to the United States of America today, a visit that is poised to be a turning point for Kenya and is aimed at strengthening ties between the two nations.

The State visit, the first by an African leader in 15 years, will kick off today May 20 in Atlanta.

President Ruto’s will, however, be only the third State visit since independence.

Previous State visits have been made by President Daniel arap Moi in 1980 and President Mwai Kibaki in 2003.

President Ruto’s visit is seen as emblematic given that the last State visit by an African leader was in 2009, 15 years ago, when President George Bush hosted Ghana’s John Kufour.

The President is expected to make a strong case for Kenya as Africa’s top and most strategic investment destination.

Multinational companies

He will urge multinational companies in the US to take advantage of the “irresistible” trade and investment options in Kenya that range from ICT, e-mobility, agriculture, infrastructure, housing, renewable energy and carbon markets, among others.

President Ruto’s message will be clear: “This is a golden opportunity for you to bring your investments to Kenya. We have modelled Kenya as an irresistible investment destination.”

According to State House Spokesman Hussein Mohamed, President Ruto’s itinerary in the US will outline the six-decade partnership between the two countries, and is expected to attract a number of deals.

On his first day on Monday (today), President Ruto will visit the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum in Atlanta, Georgia, which houses President Jimmy Carter’s material relating to his administration as the 39th President of the United States.

Carter Library will emphasise on the partnership that the US and Kenya share in terms of governance, democratic values and the fight against corruption.

Dr Ruto’s remarks at the Carter Library are expected to highlight the importance of democracies working together to fight global challenges.

Thereafter, the President and First Lady Rachel Ruto will visit Ebenezer Baptist Church, where they will pay homage to the civil right struggle.

“He will pay homage to the civil rights struggle and emphasise how religion can be a force for good. This visit will underscore the respectful historical struggle for equality and justice,” Mr Mohamed said.

The President will then proceed to a US health partnership meeting at the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, where a new CDC partnership with the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) will be announced.

The President and the First Lady will thereafter be hosted by Kenyans in the diaspora staying in Atlanta.

While in the US, President Ruto will highlight Kenya as the first African country to give priority to low-carbon resilient investments, the first market in Africa to list a private sector green bond and the first market in the world to list a mobile retail bond.

“He will also emphasise that Kenya is on the path to transitioning to 100 per cent renewable energy and has committed more than Sh110 billion ($840 million) in Green Investment Fund,” Mr Mohamed said.

Diversified investment model

Worth-noting to would-be investors is that Kenya has the most vibrant and business-facilitative environment in Africa coupled with the most efficient tax and supply chain regimes.

Moreover, Kenya has adopted a diversified investment model to unlock industrial potential of the 47 counties across the country.

Referred to as County Aggregation and Industrial Parks, the programme provides for “one county, one chamber, one product” model. Each county will establish an industrial park to conduct and incubate businesses.

With this wide base of investment opportunities, the President will pitch for American investors to leverage on the diverse economic programmes and invest in any of the counties in Kenya.

On Tuesday May 21, while still in Atlanta, the President will start his day by visiting a historical private college, Spelman College.

“He will discuss the critical role of higher education, particularly science and technology, in enhancing Kenya’s human capital development which is critical to attracting investment that solidifies Kenyan as an appealing destination for tech jobs,” Mr Mohamed said.

Also, the President will visit the Tyler Perry Studios on Tuesday, where he is expected to explore opportunities in the creative industry, and how the two countries can work together on the same.

Digital technology

Kenya is expected to showcase its high and growing Internet penetration and digital technology infrastructure that facilitates e-commerce and innovation.

Undeniably, Kenya has become one of the United States’ closest allies in the continent as the two countries strengthen six decades of diplomatic, political and economic ties.

Last September, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Kenya was headed in the right direction.

He commended President Ruto’s leadership, saying under him the country had become a champion of climate action, regional peace and security.

Mr Blinken noted that Kenya has also demonstrated maturity in democracy, setting a good example in Africa.

“Kenya has made strides in curbing corruption and abuse of public resources. The steps being taken to tackle corruption in Kenya are commendable,” he said when he met President Ruto in New York.

Glowing credentials

These glowing political and economic credentials will be on the President’s agenda with investors while in Atlanta, one of the top 10 largest cities in the US with vibrant tourism, star-lit creative economy and a booming tech sector.

President Ruto will also meet and hold talks with the Mayor of Atlanta, Mr Andre Dickens.

On Wednesday, May 22, the President will fly to Washington DC where he will be officially welcomed at the Andrews Air Force Base with full ceremonial state honours.

He will then meet the bipartisan Congressional Delegation, which is led by the who recently rejected the request from the Democrats to allow House Speaker Mike Johnson, President Ruto to address the joint session of Congress.

On Thursday, the President will lay a wreath at the Arlington National Cemetery in honour of the sacrifices made by the US soldiers as well as historic figures.

Thereafter, he will proceed for a bilateral meeting with his host, where they will discuss the economy, health, and security partnership as well as regional development.

During the discussion, multilateral issues will feature, including development bank reforms and reforms at the UN Security Council.

The Haiti Mission, which is being led by Kenya, and whose deployment is set to take place in a matter of days, is also expected to come up.

President Ruto and Mr Biden will thereafter hold a joint press briefing at the White House, and later, the President will deliver his speech on the shared climate solution at the Smithsonian Institution.

Also, the two leaders will join the delegation for a state dinner on Thursday night at the White House.

On Friday, the President is expected to attend several functions, including a digital roundtable discussion which will be hosted by the US Vice President, Kamala Harris.

At the US Centres for Disease Control, the Head of State will be seeking to advance the collaboration between Kemri and the CDC.

For over four decades, the partnership between the two institutions has been at the forefront of bolstering Kenya’s public health infrastructure, facilitating ground-breaking research and deploying interventions that have significantly reduced the burden of infectious diseases.

Stable business environment

At the headquarters of Coca-Cola Company in Atlanta, President Ruto will hold talks with the firm’s CEO of Beverages Africa, Sunil Gupta.

The President will welcome Coca-Cola’s multimillion-dollar investment in Kenya in the next five years. He will assure the company of the government’s commitment to a stable business environment “that is conducive to economic growth and innovation”.

The tour of duty in Atlanta would not be complete without what has been described as a “special and unprecedented” meeting with top American captains of industry and business leaders.

This will be the first for an African President.

Present at the event will be Coca‑Cola Company Chairman and CEO James Quincey, Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastian and GE Aerospace Chairman and CEO Henry Lawrence Culp Jr, among others.

At the meeting, President Ruto will outline Kenya’s comparative advantages that guarantee profitable growth, remarkable expansion and handsome prosperity of American businesses.

Of these advantages, Kenya’s prime geo-political location as the gateway to Africa and a key strategic ally to the US takes pride of place.

Kenya’s Ambassador to the US Lazarus Amayo said the State visit is “very significant” to Kenya.

Mr Amayo pointed out that it is the highest expression of bilateral ties between the two countries.

“It will offer us an opportunity to expand our trade volumes besides adding value to them,” he explained.

Six years ago, the United States and Kenya elevated their ties to a strategic partnership. The two countries also established a strategic dialogue that gave priority to economic prosperity, trade and investment, democracy, governance, regional issues and public health, among others.