Trump budget slash spares Kenya Sh8.5bn

US President Donald Trump. PHOTO | AFP
US President Donald Trump. PHOTO | AFP 

President Donald Trump has spared Kenya from the deep cuts in foreign aid to developing countries with Nairobi set to receive $83 million (Sh8.5 billion) in the year starting October.

The State Department’s African Affairs unit is slated for a nearly 10 per cent funding reduction in the year in line with White House calls for a cut in the foreign aid budget.

The department itself would have its budget slashed by 32 per cent under the Trump plan released on Tuesday. Assistance to Kenya would be reduced by a much smaller share, reflecting Mr Trump’s decision to “support those countries and programmes that are most critical to US national security and strategic objectives.”

Some African countries will have US development assistance eliminated entirely in accordance with the president’s “America First” approach to budget-making.

But Kenya and a few other sub-Saharan Africa states would experience little or no reduction in this broad form of aid, which the White House wants to reconceptualise under the heading of an Economic Support and Development Fund.

Kenya would receive $83 million (Sh8.5 billion) in fiscal 2018 through this renamed programme — an amount almost identical to what it got last year via the State Department’s development assistance account.

The State Department’s budget outline says this reworked funding mechanism “will target the most important issues constraining Kenya’s stability and growth, including insecurity, economic inclusion, governance challenges and access to clean water and sanitation.”

Aid to Kenya will additionally support “efforts to counter violent extremism and defeat Al-Shabaab and ISIS incursions in the region, mitigate conflict, counter wildlife crime, promote governance reforms, and enhance economic opportunities for rural households to access markets,” the budget document states.

Mr Trump’s emphasis on combating militant groups such as Al-Shabaab is highlighted by a $4.5 million “anti-terrorism assistance” programme for Kenya.

The budget outline says this funding “will help professionalise Kenya’s counterterrorism law enforcement community to build capacity in the areas of land border security (especially the country’s border with Somalia), counterterrorism investigations and counterterrorism crisis response.

“Assistance will include a strong emphasis on strengthening the skills, commitment and knowledge necessary to conduct operations in accordance with international human rights conventions,” the spending plan adds.

The White House also sets aside $1 million to help curb “corruption and violent practices by some Kenyan security forces.”

Lawless behaviour on the part of police is said to “contribute to instability and foster discontent among citizens, potentially leading to radicalisation.”

The relatively modest sum sought by Mr Trump “will strengthen the institutional capacity of the police services to foster transparency and accountability and combat endemic corruption,” the spending plan states.

US funding for Aids treatment and other health care programmes in Kenya will drop slightly under the Trump budget -- from a total of $565 million in fiscal 2016 to $550 million in the coming year.