The US Senate on Thursday approved Margaret (Meg) Cushing Whitman to be Washington’s new ambassador to Kenya, ending more than a year wait for a substantive head of mission to one of its key allies.
The decision by the Senate means the Congress has confirmed Ms Whitman, a former tech chief executive and one of the richest Americans to become President Joe Biden’s envoy to Nairobi.
She was nominated last year in December to replace Kyle McCarter, a son of evangelicals who became known for his controversial tweets railing against government officials for corruption.
Ms Whitman is a former Hewlett Packard (HP) CEO and president.
"Margaret C. Whitman (Meg), a business executive and former candidate for Governor of California, is a Member of the Board of Procter & Gamble and General Motors, and National Board Chair at Teach for America," the White House said in a dispatch on December 9, 2021.
She will report to Kenya at a time of transition politics: President Uhuru Kenyatta will be retiring once a substantive President is elected on August 9 this year. But Ms Whitman will also be pushing for an overhaul of trade negotiations began by former President Donald Trump.
On Thursday, US Trade Representative Katherine Tai and Kenya’s Trade Cabinet Secretary launched a new US-Kenya Strategic Trade and Investment Partnership (STIP), listing eight priority areas to feature in future trade negotiations.
They include agriculture, digital trade, environment and climate change action, good regulatory practices, micro, small and medium enterprises support, labour rights, women and gender rights, quality standards and trade facilitation.
“The US and Kenyan governments will commence working within three months to develop a detailed roadmap for engagement in each of these areas,” Tai said in a statement.
As opposed to Trump who wanted to negotiate a bilateral trade deal, Biden’s trade envoy said the new ‘roadmap’ will support “African regional economic integration.”
Ms Whitman, born in August 1956, will be the first US female ambassador to Kenya in more than two decades, since Prudence Bushnell in 1999. She is also a former CEO of Quibi, a streaming content platform for mobile devices, and a former President and CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, the Hewlett Packard Company, eBay, and FTD, the US IT and online shopping platforms.
"She has held senior leadership positions at Hasbro, StrideRite Corporation and the Walt Disney Corporation, and she is a former partner at Bain and Co," the bio states.
Ms Whitman studied for a BA at Princeton University and an MBA from Harvard University. "Among numerous honours, Meg has been inducted into the Bay Area Business Hall of Fame and the US Business Hall of Fame," her bio says.