US - Kenya Relations: A friendship that yields results

US President Donald Trump welcomes Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta to the White House on August 27, 2018.
US President Donald Trump welcomes Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta to the White House on August 27, 2018.
Image: FILE

Honesty is the first chapter of the book wisdom - Thomas Jefferson

US-Kenya relations is a special alliance for many reasons. Most notably perhaps is the fact that unlike other associations that are purely interest-based, it is built on interests and values. It has a deep and meaningful foundation in friendship.

A few days ago, Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma led a delegation to the United States to strengthen ties in “investments and trade, security and defence, governance and multilateral issues.”


These trips are crucial. With much of Africa turning to China and Russia, it is important that we continue to hold a special place in the hearts of Americans too.  While allies based on realpolitik are always important, friends share values. And friendships must be nurtured.

One particular area where Kenyans continue to benefit from this friendship is security.  The Security Governance Initiative (SGI) signed and secured under former President Barack Obama was designed to significantly improve all security cooperation between the close allies of the US.  And it is making a difference.

Today, terror does not respect borders. Those who despise the US and its Christian civilisation, also detest us. Those who hate their freedoms also hate our freedoms. It is, therefore, imperative that we work together.  From buttressing the responsiveness of the police to ensuring our special counter-terror units have the right equipment and training; this friendship comes with real benefits.

The US also continues to be a crucial strategic partner in our ongoing larger war on terror, whether it is the provision of vital equipment to our forces or actively participating in armed drone strikes on al Shabaab and other terrorists who attack us right here in Africa.

The recent dialogue, however, moves beyond this. It is a typical Trumpian transactional dialogue. The new focus is on trade and the economy. After all, the president of the free world has much more experience in the world of business than he does fighting terror. 

But what is particularly incredible and unique is the clear click President Donald Trump has with President Uhuru Kenyatta.  For it is rare for world leaders to be liked by Obama and Trump!  Israeli leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, was despised by Obama and is loved by Trump.  German Chancellor Angela Merkel was loved by Obama and is despised by Trump.  Uhuru is an anomaly in that his likability has drawn real affection from both of them! This likability is being converted into diplomatic gains.

The result of this is now a real strategic partnership.  And that partnership can only help our nation, both in terms of real growth, job creation, and diplomatic strength.


The AGOA (African Growth and Opportunity) Act is one such tangible example. It grants privileges and exemptions from import duties to African exporters into the US. In the framework of this act, in 2018 alone Kenya exports to the US grew by 25.8 per cent, according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, largely as a result of this act.

Kenya had already benefited from serious trade with the US, and today we have approximately Sh40 billion worth of exports to the US. With a large share of these exports from the textile sector, it is no surprise that we saw a five per cent growth in textile jobs for Kenyans in 2018. 

These delegations are, therefore, not just talking shops. These agreements and acts are not mere pieces of paper. This is real diplomacy, between real friends and is yielding real results.

Jefferson famously noted, “I predict future happiness for Americans”. With the strengthening of the US-Kenya relationship, I predict future happiness for many more Kenyans too.