Unpacking President Ruto’s goody bag:  Comprehensive agreements span infrastructure, health, education, and security, strengthening US-Kenya ties

  • 24 May 2024
  • 7 Mins Read
  • 〜 by Anne Ndungu

President Ruto’s visit to the US has resulted in significant financial commitments across multiple sectors, reinforcing Kenya’s strategic partnership with the US. However, balancing relations with China and regional neighbours will be crucial for the future.

The major highlight of President William Ruto’s state visit to the US is the securing of KShs 470 billion for the construction of a 440km expressway from Nairobi to Mombasa. But there are many other deals that the President has signed up for as shown in the following graphic: 

Areas of Collaboration Estimated Amounts Key highlights 
Nairobi – Mombasa Super Highway USD 3.6 billion 
  • Building a superhighway from Nairobi to Mombasa
Democracy, Human

Rights and Governance; 

Approx. $50 million.
  • Bolstering democratic processes and political institutions, combatting corruption through various programs and partnerships, and strengthening police reform efforts to enhance accountability and transparency within Kenya’s justice system. 
Health Partnerships;  Approx. $56 million
  • The establishment of an Applied Sciences Hub to enhance surveillance and diagnostic capabilities, with $12.9 million supporting research efforts by KEMRI in collaboration with US agencies. Additionally, over $31 million has been dedicated to advancing Kenya’s digital health goals, including the development of a digital superhighway and support for solar power solutions to improve healthcare delivery and access to emergency medical services.
People-to-People Ties; Shared Approx. $87.85 million
  • The establishment of Kennedy-Mboya Partnerships and Partnership 2024, supporting academic and innovative exchange programs with a focus on STEM education, and the creation of EDTECH Africa to bridge the gap between Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and African scholars in emerging technology. Additionally, initiatives such as the Kenya Primary Literacy Program, bolstering Kenya’s creative workforce, and expanding emerging technology training programs aim to strengthen educational and cultural ties between the United States and Kenya. 
Climate Solutions, Trade and Investment Approx. $171.3 million
  • launching the US-Kenya Climate and Clean Energy Industrial Partnership to prioritise cooperation in clean energy deployment and green industrialisation, providing humanitarian assistance to address emergency needs caused by natural disasters, supporting the transition to cleaner electricity through the Empowering East and Central Africa program, and investing in renewable energy projects such as run-of-river hydropower. Additionally, collaboration between the U.S. Department of Energy and the Kenyan Ministry of Energy aims to enhance bilateral cooperation in clean energy and carbon management technologies. Other efforts include supporting electric vehicle startups, implementing urban mobility programs, expanding plastic recycling initiatives, and strengthening community-led conservation projects.
Debt, Development, and

Sustainable Finance

Approx. $57.25 billion.
  • Initiatives include the launch of the Nairobi-Washington Vision, which calls for international cooperation to provide coordinated support to countries with high ambition for development despite high debt burdens. Efforts are underway to expand support through international financial institutions, with the United States pledging significant funding to the International Monetary Fund’s Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust and the World Bank’s International Development Association. Moreover, the United States has advocated for increased support to Kenya, leading to a doubling of program financing from the IMF and enabling enhanced World Bank financing, including through the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
Digital, Critical, and Emerging Technology


Approx. $60.91 million
  • The establishment of a Semiconductor and Technology Partnership between the United States and Kenya to promote secure and resilient supply chains, the expansion of semiconductor fabrication through a memorandum of understanding with Semiconductor Technologies Limited, and efforts to enhance cybersecurity cooperation with initiatives such as the launch of a cybersecurity operations platform and the establishment of a Cybersecurity Training and Experience Center. Additionally, significant investments are being made to expand digital connectivity, including funding for projects such as the Africa Connect fiber optic route, the expansion of broadband network access through Bandwidth and Cloud Services Group, and the development of last-mile internet infrastructure by Microsoft and other partners. Collaboration between the US AI Safety Institute and Kenya’s Imagine Tech and Action Lab is also underway to advance scientific research and standards in AI safety.
Peace and Security Cooperation. Approx. $916.7 million
  • Initiatives include designating Kenya as a Major Non-NATO Ally, funding mediation support units, providing humanitarian assistance, investing in defence capabilities, supporting deployments to international missions like Haiti, and bolstering Kenya’s criminal justice system to address terrorism threats. Additionally, there are efforts to deepen information sharing on counterterrorism, expand military infrastructure, deliver helicopters and military equipment, and facilitate military training and capacity building. While the total cost of these initiatives is not explicitly provided, they represent a substantial commitment to fostering security cooperation between the two nations.

Source: Figures estimates from the ‘FACT SHEET: Kenya State Visit to the United States’ posted on the whitehouse.gov website. Calculations include existing and new initiatives. 

What’s evident from the strategic influx of funds is that there are numerous areas of collaboration between the US and Kenya, with money being directed towards key strategic interests for the US.

The recent appointment of Amb. Monica Juma, as Kenya’s first National Security Advisor, marked a significant development in the country’s security framework. This role is crucial for coordinating national security policies and strategies, reflecting an effort to enhance Kenya’s security infrastructure and align it more closely with international standards.

If this move is combined with the training collaboration that the president has managed to secure with the US military academies—Army, Naval, and Air Force—for the Kenya Defence Forces, there is bound to be enhanced security infrastructure in the country as this 

exposure to advanced military tactics, leadership training, and strategic thinking will enhance the professional standards of Kenyan military personnel. This, in turn, will lead to Improved Intelligence Sharing greatly improving Kenya’s ability to counter threats, manage security challenges, and enhance overall national security. In addition, President Biden’s intention to designate Kenya as a Major Non-NATO Ally (MNNA) will solidify the strategic partnership with the United States as this status provides various benefits, including increased military aid, joint training exercises, and easier access to US defence technology. It underscores Kenya’s importance as a strategic partner in East Africa, particularly in counterterrorism efforts and regional security initiatives. The US, therefore, intends to build Kenyan capacities so that it can  play a more influential role in regional security dynamics and contribute significantly to peacekeeping and conflict resolution in the region. 

However, Kenya may have inadvertently waded into the US-China semiconductor rivalry, which is driven by both nations’ desire to dominate the technology sector. The  US intends to explore ways to expand the global supply chain in semi-conductors and grow Kenya’s manufacturing capabilities to the assembly, test and package sector under the International Technology Security and Innovation Fund, created by the CHIPS and Science Act  of 2022 and the US Trade and Development Agency’s commitment of $1.3 million to support Semiconductor Technologies Limited’s expansion in Kenya. Kenya becoming the first African beneficiary further signifies the strategic role of the country. 

Kenya stands to benefit through integration into the global semiconductor supply chain, which will enhance its economic and technological landscape, allowing it to carve a niche and build expertise, supporting global supply chains. Furthermore, the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) partnership with companies like Micron and Global Foundries and support for educational institutions will help develop a diverse and skilled semiconductor workforce. This collaboration will extend to Kenyan universities, enhancing STEM education and research. 

Kenya’s recent discovery of coltan deposits, a mineral essential for manufacturing electric car batteries, mobile phones, and other electronic devices, adds another layer to the country’s strategic significance in the global technology landscape. Kenya’s efforts to become a tech giant are therefore bolstered by these opportunities. The only blip in the plan is a lack of Electric Vehicle infrastructure in the country. 


The President’s Kenya Kwanza Manifesto prioritises Agriculture, Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise(MSME) economy, Housing and Settlement, Healthcare and Digital Superhighway and Creative Economy. On the healthcare front, the US plans to procure up to an additional five million malaria treatments and 475,000 preventive doses from Kenyan manufacturers in 2024 which will give a boost to pharmaceutical manufacturing in the country. The healthcare initiatives mentioned total $37 million.


On the Digital Superhighway and Creative Economy front, there are initiatives expanding Digital Connectivity, like Google’s investment in Africa Connect which aims to create the first intercontinental fibre optic route in the southern hemisphere, enhancing digital connectivity between Kenya, the Asia Pacific region, and other African countries and USTDA funding which supports the expansion of broadband network access through feasibility studies for Bandwidth and Cloud Services Group (BCS) and Poa Internet, aiming to provide affordable internet access to urban and low-income communities.

The construction of a green data centre in Naivasha, Kenya, powered by geothermal energy, enhances access to cloud-based services and supports the Government of Kenya’s data migration initiatives and the DFC’s loan to M-KOPA supports smartphone financing for low-income borrowers, increases accessibility to digital devices and services. There is also a collaboration between the US AI Safety Institute and Kenya’s Imagine Tech and Action Lab, which aims to advance AI safety research, develop safety evaluations and standards, and foster international cooperation in AI safety initiatives.


Collaboration with the Recording Academy and the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, among other private sector and civil society institutions, aims to develop programs that promote collaboration, capacity building, and professional development within the creative industries. These initiatives are designed to support emerging leaders in television, film, and music by providing opportunities to learn new skills, build networks, and participate in international festivals. The programs aim to nurture talent and facilitate connections within the global creative community.


Perhaps the most evocative aspects of the visit are the educational elements, reminiscent of Tom Mboya’s airlifts to the US in the 1960s. The Kennedy-Mboya Partnerships signify a renewed commitment between the United States and Kenya to foster intellectual exchange and academic collaboration, building upon the historic Kennedy-era student airlift. The US Department of State intends to provide $3.3 million for a scholarship program allowing 60 Kenyan undergraduate students to study for a semester in the United States, with a focus on STEM fields. This program aims to nurture the next generation of Kenyan STEM professionals. A $500,000 investment for Partnership 2024 supports the development of Kenyan students, scientists, researchers, and engineers by fostering collaborations between U.S. and Kenyan universities and research institutions. Faculty and research collaboration will be bolstered with support from Fulbright Specialists.in addition to a plethora of initiatives, The Framework for Cooperation, signed between the U.S. and Kenya, supports higher education partnerships for STEM education. It outlines priorities and commitments from various stakeholders, including Microsoft, Micron, Mastercard, and several U.S. and Kenyan universities, to build capacity in STEM-related education and career opportunities.


Of course, it is important to keep in mind that not all these initiatives are new. Some are ongoing, but they serve to illustrate the ties that bind the US to kenya and how new initiatives are part of ongoing efforts to strengthen those ties. 


However, even as President Ruto returns with numerous benefits from the visit, he faces a delicate balancing act. Kenya’s substantial debt to China means that this visit to the US could be viewed with suspicion by Beijing, especially in the context of the ongoing semiconductor war. Additionally, other African nations might not view the increased closeness with the US favourably. Countries like South Africa, which have strong opinions about the Israel-Gaza conflict, may see Ruto as aligning too closely with the West. Tanzania, for example, is focusing on investment-led partnerships, while Premier Abiy of Ethiopia has adopted an “open for business” stance. How he treads this tightrope in the future may well be a masterclass in playing the geopolitical cards.