Ruto, Biden announce new investments as they seek deeper ties

U.S. President Joe Biden welcomes Kenyan President William Ruto at the South Portico of the White House in Washington, U.S., May 22, 2024.

Photo credit: REUTERS/Leah Millis

May 23 - US 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 US administration official said.

Ruto arrived in the US on Wednesday as part of a 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 US rivals China and Russia greater influence. Biden hopes strengthening ties with Kenya can help stabilise the continent and advance US 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 US administration official said. Currently, 18 countries are designated as non-NATO allies, including Israel, Brazil and the Philippines.

Green energy

The leaders are also expected to announce new US-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 US will announce $250 million in new investments in Kenya through the US International Development Finance Corporation including $180 million for a major affordable housing project, a US government official said. That will bring the US 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 a UN-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 US 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 materialised.

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.