I look forward to deepening our cooperation to promote economic prosperity, security, human rights, and democracy in the region.
– Secretary Antony J Blinken, March 2, 2021
Secretary Antony J. Blinken will visit Kenya November 17-18, where he will meet with President Uhuru Kenyatta and Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs Ambassador Raychelle Omamo to discuss the partnership between the governments of the United States and Kenya. The United States and Kenya partner on multiple global priorities, including ending the COVID pandemic and investing in health, addressing the climate crisis, building a more inclusive global economy, and strengthening democracy and respect for human rights. In addition, the United States and Kenya are working together to address regional priorities, particularly ending the crisis in Ethiopia, fighting terrorism in Somalia, and restoring the civilian-led transition in Sudan.
The United States and Kenya established diplomatic relations in 1964. Our bilateral engagement has expanded greatly since Kenya returned to multiparty democracy in 1992.
The United States and Kenya elevated our relationship to a strategic partnership in 2018 and held our first Bilateral Strategic Dialogue (BSD) in Washington, DC in 2019. The BSD is built on five pillars that underscore the breadth of our mutual interests across the areas of: economic prosperity, defense, democracy and civilian security, multilateral and regional issues, and public health.
The United States provided over $560 million in bilateral assistance to Kenya in FY 2020. This assistance supported integrated programming across our pillars of partnership. In addition, the United States also provided nearly $98 million in humanitarian assistance in FY 2021.
Health Assistance and Pandemic Response
The U.S. government is the largest contributor to Kenya’s health sector with an annual investment of approximately $450 million over the last three years, benefitting an estimated 25 million Kenyans. As a result of our investments and the complementary and collaborative efforts of the government of Kenya, 1.2 million Kenyans are currently receiving life-saving HIV treatment, the mortality rate of children under age five has decreased by about 56 percent since 2000, and the average Kenyan’s life expectancy has increased by more than 15 years over the same period.
The United States and Kenya have collaborated closely to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, reduce secondary economic impacts, and restrict non-essential travel across borders, while also addressing the economic challenges of reduced mobility.
The United States is the largest bilateral donor to the Global Alliance on Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), supporting COVID-19 vaccine procurement and distribution through the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) program. To date, the United States has provided nearly 4 million vaccine doses in partnership with COVAX to Kenya and, in addition, has also invested $4.5 million in technical assistance to support Kenya’s nationwide COVID-19 vaccine rollout program.
U.S.-Kenya Economic Relationship
In 2020, the United States imported $568.9 million in goods from Kenya and exported $370.8 million worth of products to Kenya. Over the last decade, U.S.-Kenya goods trade has been roughly even, with approximately $1 billion in annual trade. Kenya receives over $1 billion annually in remittances from the United States.
The Kenyan economy currently benefits from participation in the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) trade preference program.
Climate and Energy
The United States provides assistance to help Kenya realize its clean energy goals through financing, grants, technical assistance, advocacy, and promotion of investments in renewable energy. Since 2013, the U.S Trade and Development Agency, Power Africa, and the International Development Finance Corporation have invested nearly $600 million in financing and technical assistance for renewable energy projects in Kenya, supporting 20 percent of Kenya’s current clean power generation capacity. This support has helped attract an additional $1.8 billion in private investments for clean energy projects in Kenya over the last six years. These projects include the Ormat Olkaria III Geothermal Plant, which produces 16 percent of Kenya’s geothermal capacity and five percent of the country’s total power capacity, and the Kipeto wind farm, Kenya’s second largest wind power project.
The U.S. government, working with the U.S. private sector through Power Africa, has facilitated approximately one million off-grid and on-grid connections for homes and businesses across the country, bringing electricity to over 10 million Kenyans over the past six years. In many rural areas, mini-grids and off-grid connections are providing households and businesses with electricity for the first time. These investments created over 40,000 green energy jobs.
U.S. Security Cooperation with Kenya
In FY 2020, U.S. peace and security assistance totaled over $560 million. Kenya has purchased over $139 million worth of U.S.-made military equipment over the past three years, making Kenya a key strategic military partner. The U.S. partnership with the Kenya Defense Force includes assistance related to counterterrorism, border security, aviation security, maritime security (including to the newly established Kenyan Coast Guard), peacekeeping support, and broader professionalization efforts.
The United States supports Kenyan law enforcement to promote police accountability and reform and support anti-corruption efforts within Kenyan institutions. Other programs include support to counter violent extremism, security initiatives to build the capacity of civil society organizations, and justice sector reform.
As of 2021, the State Department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism has 14 active projects funded at $69 million over five years aimed at enhancing the counterterrorism capacity of Kenya’s civilian law enforcement in areas such as crisis response, investigations, border security, aviation security, and countering violent extremism. The Department of Defense provided $24 million in assistance focused on building Kenya’s defense institutions, enhancing military sales, and counterterrorism operations. Since 2017, the United States has provided $19 million in counterterrorism assistance to Kenya. Additionally in the last three years, the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs has provided approximately $7.6 million annually to promote police accountability and reform and support anti-corruption efforts within Kenyan institutions.
Governance and Human Rights
The United States works closely with Kenya to strengthen institutions and processes at the national and local levels to increase public participation in governance and foster greater transparency and accountability; advance gender equality and women’s empowerment; improve the operating space for civil society and the media; integrate human rights as a component countering violent extremism; and support preparations for free and fair elections in 2022.
The U.S. government’s democracy and governance bilateral assistance to Kenya totaled approximately $8.7 million for FY 2020. This support includes programming in governance reform, anti-corruption efforts, national reconciliation and dialogue, and countering violent extremism.
Kenya hosts over 500,000 refugees and asylum seekers from Somalia, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, and other countries. Between 2015 and FY 2021 the United States provided nearly $790 million in assistance for refugees in Kenya.
In 2019,over 250,000 Americans visited Kenya while some 36,000 Americans are currently resident in the country. The consular section of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi issued over 5,000 immigrant visas and 21,000 non-immigrant visas, including 1,500 student visas. All visa categories experienced an approximate 75 percent drop during the COVID-19 pandemic but are anticipated to exceed historical norms in the future.
Over 200 Kenyans participate in U.S. government-sponsored in-person and virtual exchange programs annually, and the alumni community has more than 4,900 members. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the five American Spaces in Kenya received more than 250,000 visits per year.