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Biden To Designate Kenya As Major Non-NATO Ally During Ruto’s State Visit

Kenya is set to become the first sub-Saharan African country to receive Joe Biden’s major non-NATO ally designation.

U.S. President Joe Biden is set to designate Kenya as a major non-NATO ally during Kenyan President William Ruto’s three-day state visit to the United States, a source familiar with the plans revealed. This would make Kenya the first sub-Saharan African country to receive such a designation, underscoring Washington’s intent to deepen ties with the East African nation, which has also maintained close relations with Russia and China.

While welcoming Ruto to the White House for a business executive meeting, he announced plans to visit Africa in February following the U.S. presidential election. The two leaders are scheduled to meet again in the Oval Office on Thursday, followed by a joint news conference and a state dinner. Senior administration officials have indicated that Biden and Ruto will discuss a broad range of issues including trade, debt relief, and strategies for Haiti, Ukraine, Sudan, and other regions.

On Wednesday, Biden highlighted a new era of technology cooperation between the U.S. and Kenya, encompassing cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and semiconductors, although he did not mention the security designation. Additionally, the U.S. will announce $250 million in new investments through the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), expanding the DFC’s portfolio in Kenya to over $1 billion.

Both nations share a commitment to developing and deploying technology that promotes transparency, accountability, and human rights. A U.S. official praised Kenya’s role as an “engine for innovation,” citing its $1 billion “Silicon Savannah” technology hub, which houses over 200 startups across sectors such as clean energy, microelectronics, financial technology, and e-commerce.

Washington is also planning a new semiconductor partnership with Kenya and is working with Congress to make Kenya the first African country to benefit from funding through the U.S. CHIPS and Science Act of 2022.

Kenya’s designation as a major non-NATO ally comes as it prepares to deploy forces to Haiti as part of a U.N.-led mission to address the security crisis in the Caribbean nation. This designation, granted to close non-NATO allies with strategic working relationships with the U.S. military, follows Biden’s earlier designation of Qatar in March.

Gyude Moore, head of the Africa Initiative at the Center for Global Development, noted that Kenya has proven to be a reliable U.S. partner, particularly as South Africa pursues a more independent foreign policy. Cameron Hudson, a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, remarked that this move formalises Kenya’s alignment with the U.S., particularly in areas such as cooperation on Somalia. He emphasised the significance of this designation, noting that no other sub-Saharan African country has received it.

Melissa Enoch.

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