What Uhuru Kenyatta, Donald Trump will discuss at White House

Monday August 27 2018

President Uhuru Kenyatta (right) arrives at his hotel in Washington, DC, on August 26, 2018 ahead of a meeting with US President Donald Trump. PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP


President Uhuru Kenyatta, who landed in Washington DC on Saturday night, will meet President Donald Trump on Monday to drum up support for increased American investment, trade and partnership with Kenya.

The meeting at the White House will be the first by President Kenyatta on a bilateral level.

It is only the second formal meeting for an African leader at the White House, and points to Kenya's increasingly significant role in security in the region, one of President Trump's obvious focus areas.

It will also be the start of high-level meetings with global leaders in 10 days.

British Prime Minister Theresa May is due in Nairobi on Thursday before the President meets Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Beijing during the China-Africa summit.

Increasing investment, bolstering trade and securing peace in the region are the overall issues on President Kenyatta’s plate over the next 10 days.



Senior Western diplomats say the meetings with high-level individuals could end with the conference on the Blue Economy in November, with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and French President Emmanuel Macron likely to attend.

With all leaders, on a multilateral level, President Kenyatta is likely to press for Kenya's campaign to be elected to the presidency of the UN General Assembly in 2020/21, the UN Security Council in 2021/22, and continued funding for the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom).

President Kenyatta will today find a White House different from the one he visited in 2014 at the start of his global charm offensive.

Then, rights of all kinds including that of lesbians and gays and talk about fighting corruption were the focus of Barack Obama's White House.


President Kenyatta's relentless fight against corruption, which has seen the arrest and charging in court of more than 200 people over the last three months, means graft is no longer something Washington can pin on the President's shoulders.

The Trump White House is keen to promote American investment, and especially participation in infrastructure projects currently dominated by China and Japan.

“The Kenyatta-Trump meeting comes at an opportune time for Kenya considering that President Kenyatta is currently involved in implementing programmes to bolster trade and investments in the country through his administration's Big Four development agenda,” State House spokesperson Kanze Dena said.

US Under-Secretary for Commerce Gilbert Kaplan was in Nairobi in June, heading a 60-member delegation that signed deals worth Sh10 billion with Kenya's private sector.

Some of the things Mr Kaplan asked for are likely to dominate today’s meeting: one of them being that Kenya informs the US of opportunities for investment, whether for direct foreign investment, business partnerships or infrastructure development.


They also wanted government to allow logistics, construction and engineering firm Bechtel Corporation to construct a brand new $3.8 billion six-lane Mombasa-Nairobi expressway.

The US is also keenly following the 1,000MW Lamu Coal plant in which General Electric holds a 30 per cent stake through Amu Power.

President Kenyatta’s meeting with President Trump will not be the first the two leaders will be meeting face-to-face.

In 2017, presidents Kenyatta and Trump shook hands at the G7 Summit at Taormina, Italy.

Since he took office in 2013, President Kenyatta has been courted by top world leaders raising the country’s profile in the region.

President Obama’s visit to Kenya in 2015 was the first by a sitting US head of State. President Kenyatta is among a few leaders from the developing world to attend and address the G7 Summit twice, first in Italy and in Canada this year.


Geopolitical analysts say it is Kenya’s growing importance as a global destination for international conferences and the re-emergence of Nairobi as the economic engine of East Africa that is drawing the world’s attention to the country and making its leader one of the most sought after African presidents by global leaders.

The Blue Economy conference to be co-hosted by Kenya and Canada in November is perhaps the latest indicator that the global community sees a strategic partner in Kenya, considered the only democracy of note in an East Africa that is increasingly authoritarian.

Kenya remains a strategic ally of the US in the fight against terrorism and piracy in the Indian Ocean.

In Somalia, Kenya’s military is actively engaged in the fight against al Shabaab terror group within Amisom.