Let Kenyans seize the moment

Wednesday March 18 2020

US President Donald Trump (left) walks with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta at the White House in Washington, DC, on February 6, 2020. The Trump administration announced that it will seek a free-trade agreement with Kenya. PHOTO | NICHOLAS KAMM | AFP


United States President Donald Trump and Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta made quiet history earlier this month with the announcement that the US Trade Representative will negotiate a new trade agreement with Kenya that will serve as the model for the rest of Africa.

This moment is long overdue and demonstrates what happens when two leaders set their minds on making a difference for their countries. The announcement on February 6 — along with President Kenyatta’s speech at the US Chamber of Commerce — was the culmination of more than a year of lobbying by the Kenyan government.


President Trump’s affinity for attention-getting comments and seeming disregard for “the Washington way” of operating obscure a greater truth about his administration — it gets things done!

Besides the US-Kenya trade deal, the Prosper Africa initiative announced last year is moving forward, and rapidly so, according to recent discussions we’ve had with our contacts working on this multi-agency effort to double US-Africa trade.

While our nation has its share of politically connected individuals who understand how to work with government to their benefit, the American system strives to give everyone the right to speak directly to their government.


Although it is unfamiliar to many outside our capital, one of the great reflections of the democratic principles built into our system is that any federal rule-making requires public input. That’s why the US trade rep will seek comments to shape “the direction, focus and content” of the negotiations, which are expected to play out over the next year.


Any Kenyan entrepreneur, CEO or business person who wants to make this deal work for them should make their voice heard. The US public input process seeks and welcomes input from all citizens and stakeholders, wherever they are.

The Kenyan private sector and interested individuals have a historic opportunity to take part in shaping an agreement that will lock in future prosperity between the US and Kenya for decades with the goal of doubling the $1 billion a year trade.

Other African businesspeople should track this process closely and speak up if they want input into a deal that will serve as the model for their country. Taken together with the ratification of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, and the East African Community’s promise, there has never been a more auspicious moment for US-Kenya, indeed, US-Africa, trade.


With the continent perched on the verge of becoming the world’s largest workforce and home of the world’s youngest population, it is in all of our interests to build a more prosperous future of economic opportunity for everyone.

Many times over the years, we have discussed how the US lagged behind the British, Europeans and Chinese when it came to investing in Kenya’s seemingly endless bounties.

It frustrated us that our fellow Americans didn’t see what we saw every day: A nation of entrepreneurial people striving to create opportunity and biashara everywhere.

We are thrilled to see our government officially recognise that spirit, embodied by President Kenyatta’s leadership in lobbying for Kenya to strike the first US-African trade deal under President Trump.

Washington has opened the doors of friendship and economic partnership to Kenyans. A prosperous future awaits those bold enough to seize this historic moment and make their voices heard in Washington.

Mr Ranneberger, former US Ambassador to Kenya, is founding partner, Gainful Solutions, Washington, DC. Mr Hull, former Reuters News deputy bureau chief for East and Central Africa and editor for Bloomberg News, is Vice-President, HBW Resources, Washington, DC. Mr Nazari-Kangarlou is founding partner, Gainful Solutions. [email protected]