Kenya and the United States will continue to cooperate on security in the region, even as both sides focus on advancing economic ties.
Ahead of the first Bilateral Strategic Dialogue in Washington on Tuesday, Kenyan government officials say they expect the meeting to also cement security deals focusing on terrorism, policing and border protection.
“The two countries are expected to sign the agreement to guide the Strategic Dialogue and the Security Governance Initiative Joint Action Plan, to enhance civilian security and governance cooperation,” said a dispatch from the Foreign Affairs ministry.
The Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma is leading the Kenyan delegation to Washington and is accompanied by her Interior counterpart Fred Matiang’i and several senior officials.
Kenya and the US will be seeking to strengthen ties on investments and trade, security and defence, governance and multilateral issues such as in the United Nations or African Union.
The Security Governance Initiative (SGI) is an Obama-era policy which started in 2015 to help allies improve their security and policing, and address transnational threats. It involves Kenya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Tunisia, countries which Washington is supporting to improve their police departments to be responsive to public needs.
In Kenya, the SGI's focus is on border security management, improvement of police services and administration of justice, as well as fighting violence extremism.
Once the Action Plan is signed, both countries will agree on timelines to implement policies that will aid in improving security in the country. So far, the border management, laws on illicit weapon trafficking, and an analysis of police shortages have been done under the SGI.
The US has been Kenya’s strategic partner in war on terror, from supplying equipment to launching drone attacks on targeted militants inside Somalia.
But security could be US President Donald Trump's a longer route to economic ties. The Dialogue is President Trump’s initiative, after he met with President Uhuru Kenyatta last year, to focus on areas Washington shares with Nairobi.
After the Washington meeting, the two leaders announced they had elevated their 50-year relations to strategic partnership, implying privileged relations that cover political, economic, social and historical issues and can be done in security, governance and investments.
Ideally, such relationship is supposed to be for mutual benefits or interests, but sometimes in can involve managed rivalry. Kenya also enjoys a similar arrangement with China.
Dr Juma said the economic and investment pillar will see “Kenya and US aim to step up collaboration that grows the economy through generating jobs and building technical capacity.”
“Kenya and the United States will seek to deepen economic ties through maximising Kenya’s trade under the African Growth and Opportunity (Agoa) Act,” she said referring to the US law that grants certain privileges to African exporters into the US market without paying duty.
Agoa is due to expire in 2025 after it was extended for 10 years for the second time in 2015. And President Trump has sought a replacement he argues will be more beneficial to both the US and African partners.
Kenya already enjoys significant trade volumes, standing an average of Sh100 billion, with more than Sh40 billion worth of exports to the US under the Agoa Act in 2017.