Published: 13:02, May 24, 2024 | Updated: 13:09, May 24, 2024
Biden pledges new US-Kenya partnership on tech, security
By Agencies
Kenya's President William Ruto speaks during a news conference with President Joe Biden in the East Room of the White House, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (PHOTO / AP)

US President Joe Biden welcomed Kenyan President William Ruto to the White House on Thursday for a state visit, pledging new partnerships on technology, security and debt relief to the leader of the East African country.

Ruto's is the first state visit by an African president to the White House since 2008.

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On Thursday evening, Ruto was the guest of honor at a lavish state dinner that drew a wide range of guests, from singer-songwriter Don McLean to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, the CEOs of Walmart and Pfizer as well as former President Bill Clinton. Former President Barack Obama, whose father was Kenyan, made a brief appearance before the meal.

We agreed on the significant opportunity for the US to radically recalibrate its strategy and strengthen its support for Africa.

William Ruto, President, Kenya

Greeting Ruto on the South Lawn of the White House, Biden reminisced about his own visits to Kenya as a young man, hailing 60 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries after Kenya's independence.

"We agreed on the significant opportunity for the US to radically recalibrate its strategy and strengthen its support for Africa," Ruto said standing with Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and other cabinet officials. Earlier, he had met privately with Biden in the Oval Office.

Biden said he would designate Kenya as the first sub-Saharan African country to be a major non-NATO ally. Qatar, Israel and 16 other countries share that designation.

In a joint statement, Biden and Ruto said they would work together to support the Somali government in its fight against terrorism and asked warring parties in Sudan to allow humanitarian access to aid and agree to a ceasefire.

The Kenyan president arrived in the US on Monday and visited Atlanta, then spoke with business executives in the White House on Wednesday. On Friday, he will discuss digital inclusion in Africa with Vice President Kamala Harris at an event hosted by the US Chamber of Commerce.

Kenya's President William Ruto exchanges a toast with President Joe Biden during a State Dinner at the White House, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (PHOTO / AP)

Green energy, health deals

The leaders announced new US-backed investments in green energy and health manufacturing, along with a detailed plan to cut Kenya's high debt load.

The US International Development Finance Corporation announced $250 million in new investments in Kenya through the US International Development Finance Corp. That includes $180 million for a major affordable housing project, a US government official said, bringing the US financing institution's portfolio in Kenya to over $1 billion.

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The two leaders made a joint call for the international community to reduce the heavy debt burden of developing countries and do more to support poor countries that want to invest in development and climate technologies.

They also called for the US Congress to pass a bill to renew a US-Africa trade pact.

On Wednesday, Biden told reporters he plans to visit Africa in February after the US presidential election, an announcement that presumes the Democratic president will defeat his Republican opponent Donald Trump. Biden had earlier pledged to make a trip to Africa sometime in 2023.