Trade, investments are cornerstones of next level of Kenya-US relations

President Joe Biden, President William Ruto and First Lady Rachel Ruto

President Joe Biden, President William Ruto and First Lady Rachel Ruto at a past meeting.

Photo credit: File | Pool

This week, President William Ruto leads a delegation, to arguably, the most consequential state visit to the US since Independence. The visit qualifies as a ‘loaded’ mission for the sheer breadth of bilateral and diplomatic engagements scheduled to take place between the two nations.

In that loaded agenda, matters trade and investments are noticeably the twin sinews that will buttress the unfolding phase of Kenya-US relations. Thankfully, Kenya and the US have progressively built a formidable foundation for the furtherance of trade and investments to move to next logical level.

Thus far, for instance, the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) has become a lynchpin in the US trade relationship with Kenya and the rest of sub-Saharan Africa. Between the year 2000 when Agoa was launched and 2022, Kenya’s apparel sector exports multiplied more than tenfold to peak at $540 million. Besides, though seldom acknowledged, Agoa has contributed substantially in creating jobs and improving the quality of life for a significant number around the continent. With Kenyan apparel brands, such as Vivo, NexGen, Ubuntu and others making their debut in the US market, time will, no doubt, pave the way for other opportunities.

Besides, the US-Kenya Strategic Trade and Investment Partnership (STIP) — launched in July 2022—is already redefining our investment arena and showing clear signs of rewards for our businesses in the foreseeable future. In short, there is ample background and goodwill to signal the need for a renewed effort to grow Kenya-US trade and investment relations.

To make the most of Kenya’s naturally favoured geo-location and a uniquely endowed gateway to Africa, it is imperative to specify what trade and investments the two distinct entities should pursue.

This is in light of an unfolding diplomatic and bilateral alliance between Kenya and the US. With regard to trade, Kenya, through the current state visit stands a chance to chart a new path of relations informed by economic diversification and enhanced competitiveness.

Through well-argued trade agreements and partnerships Kenya and the US can reduce trade barriers and facilitate market access for businesses for both countries. Moreover, collaborative initiatives in sectors such as green investments, infrastructure development, renewable energy and information technology can expand the scope of bilateral trade and exponentially shore up net returns from projects focused on shared economic prosperity.

By deepening investment ties, Kenya and the US will create many opportunities for economic growth. Collaboration in areas such as research and development, skills training and technology transfer will speed up the process of registering results from existing but unlocked potential.

Rebecca Miano is Cabinet Secretary for Investments, Trade and Industry in Kenya.

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