In his first meeting with President Donald Trump, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said he hoped to build on the “strong” and “solid” relationship the two nations enjoyed, and joked that he hoped the United States would share some of its record-breaking stock market figures with Kenya.
Kenyatta, who was reelected last July as the leader of one of Africa’s largest economic and transportation hubs, is the son of the country’s first leader, Jomo Kenyatta.
Trump described the relationship as “tremendous” and pointed to the construction of Kenya’s first high-speed expressway by an American company as an example of the two nations’ economic cooperation.
“We’re going to be making some great deals for both countries,” Trump said in a photo opp before the meeting.
While in Washington, Kenyatta oversaw the signing of two investment deals by American companies worth a combined $238 million, his office said. One was for a 100-megawatt, grid-connected wind power plant south of Nairobi, and the other was a letter of commitment to expand Twiga Foods, a mobile-based food distributor, among other food-related projects.
The United States was Kenya’s third-largest export partner last year, mainly exporting tea, coffee, and apparel, while Kenya wasn’t even in the United States’ top 15 for exports.
The two were also expected to talk about regional security. The United States has been working with Kenyan forces to defeat the al-Qaida affiliate al-Shabaab in East Africa. The terrorist group is trying to remove Somalia’s U.N.-backed government and impose its own strict interpretation of Islam. The group has intensified attacks in Kenya since Kenya sent troops into Somalia in 2011.
The elephant in the room during the two leaders’ meeting was China, one of Kenya’s largest investors and the holder of over half of its public debt. China has been investing heavily in Africa, and many are watching what Trump will do regarding China’s growing influence in the area.
A few days before visiting the United States, Kenyatta met with China’s ambassador to Kenya, Sun Baohong, to talk about an upcoming summit on China–Africa cooperation in Beijing. Kenyatta is the second leader from sub-Saharan Africa to visit the White House after Trump met with Nigerian leader Muhammadu Buhari in April.
Kenya’s cabinet secretary for foreign affairs, Monica Juma, said in a statement that she expected Kenyatta to push for increasing exports under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which gives certain sub-Saharan nations increased market access to the United States.
“You know, we are a key beneficiary of AGOA. But it is also true that there are a number of lines within AGOA that we could enhance. And so, there will be discussions around this. And we hope we can also commence discussions on post-AGOA arrangements,” she said in a statement.