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US President Biden is set 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. The move is largely symbolic but reflects Kenya’s rise as a regional partner that has long cooperated with US counterterrorism operations on the continent. Currently, 18 countries hold the designation of non-NATO allies, including Israel, Brazil, and the Philippines. Kenya will become the first sub-Saharan African country to receive this status, highlighting its growing global influence.

President Ruto’s visit to the US marks the sixth state visit hosted by the Biden administration and the first for an African president since 2008. The meeting, named the Nairobi-Washington Vision, comes at a time when Biden is seeking to assure African nations that the US can be a better partner than China, which has been increasing its investments in the continent through high-interest loans. The political landscape in Africa has seen upheaval in the past year, with military coups, wars, and shaky elections giving US rivals China and Russia more influence. Biden and Ruto are calling on creditor nations to reduce financing barriers for developing countries burdened by high debt.

During the visit, Biden and Ruto are expected to announce new US-backed investments in green energy and health manufacturing, as well as a plan to help reduce Kenya’s high debt load, much of which is owed to China. The US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) will invest $250 million in Kenya, including $180 million for an affordable housing project, bringing the agency’s portfolio in Kenya to over $1 billion. The two leaders will also call on the international community to provide high-ambition financial support to countries in need.

The Biden administration’s decision to designate Kenya as a key non-NATO ally in sub-Saharan Africa underscores the country’s strategic importance as a partner in counterterrorism efforts on the continent. This move signals a shift towards recognizing Kenya’s growing global influence and cooperation with the US in addressing regional and global challenges. The visit by Kenyan President Ruto to Washington, DC, marks an important milestone in strengthening bilateral relations and addressing key issues such as reducing debt burdens and promoting sustainable investments in areas like green energy and healthcare manufacturing.

As China and Russia increase their presence and influence in Africa through investments and infrastructure projects, the US is seeking to position itself as a more reliable and supportive partner for African nations. President Biden’s commitment to visiting the African continent in 2025, if re-elected, demonstrates a long-term strategy to engage with African nations and promote shared prosperity and security. By designating Kenya as a key non-NATO ally, the US is signaling its recognition of the country’s strategic importance and commitment to strengthening cooperation on a range of economic, security, and development issues.

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