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US to designate Kenya as ‘non-NATO ally’ during Ruto’s state visit

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US President Biden will inform Congress on Thursday about Kenya’s new status.

The United States plans to designate Kenya as the first key non-NATO ally in sub-Saharan Africa during a visit to Washington, DC by Kenyan President Willam Ruto.

According to the White House, Biden will inform Congress on Thursday that he will designate Kenya with the largely symbolic title.

Currently, 18 countries are designated as non-NATO allies, including Israel, Brazil and the Philippines.

The label will reflect Kenya’s rise from a regional partner that has long cooperated with US counterterrorism operations on the continent to a major global influence.

Kenya will become the first sub-Saharan African country to receive the status.

The designation comes during Ruto’s visit to the US, which began on Wednesday. It is part of a three-day state visit that includes bilateral talks with US President Joe Biden on Thursday.

Kenya’s President William Ruto speaks during a meeting with the US president and business leaders in the East Room of the White House in Washington, May 22, 2024 [Susan Walsh/AP]

The Kenyan leader’s trip is the sixth state visit hosted by the Biden administration and the first for an African president since 2008.

But the meeting dubbed the Nairobi-Washington Vision comes amid Biden’s appeals to African nations that the US can be a better partner than China, as Beijing deepens its investment in the continent, often with high-interest loans.

In the past year, Africa’s political landscape has been upended by a spate of military coups, wars and shaky elections that have given US rivals China and Russia more significant influence.

However, Biden and Ruto want creditor nations to reduce financing barriers for developing countries that high debt burdens have constrained.

“Together we will call to the international community to come together around these elements to support high-ambition countries with high-ambition financial support,” the White House said in a fact sheet detailing the effort.

Biden and Ruto are also expected to announce on Thursday new US-backed investments in green energy and health manufacturing, along with a plan to cut Kenya’s high debt load, most of which is owed to China, a senior administrative official told the Reuters news agency.

The US will also announce $250m in new investments in Kenya through the US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) including $180m for a major affordable housing project, bringing the US financing agency’s portfolio in Kenya to more than $1bn.

Biden has said he plans to visit the African continent in February 2025 should he win a second term.

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