The U.S. Needs Kenya More than Kenya Needs the U.S.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

President Barack Obama’s visit to Kenya is not too much, too little, too late. Granted, it does seem so. However, as Vanessa Williams sung, it’s not what Kenyans hoped: early in his presidency, or how they planned (for very obvious reasons to do with the ICC cases). But, somehow, it’s enough that, just when they thought the chance had passed, Obama has gone on and, quite literally, saved the best for last.

Furthermore, the visit is not a dumb idea as suggested by Robert I. Rotberg.

Obama’s traveling there despite a standing U.S. travel advisory which means it’s not such an extreme risk for Americans to visit. After all, the U.S. has had its share of terrorist attacks, 9/11 being one of the worst witnessed anywhere. I can’t recall any government issuing a travel warning not to visit the U.S. which explains why I live here and in New York, no less. Let’s end double speak!

Travel advisories are counterproductive. Sure, governments have a duty to protect their nationals but advisories only serve to send the wrong message to agents of terror and undermine the so-called “war on terror.” Coming after the Garissa outrage and the West Gate Mall siege, this visit sends the right message and is a vote of confidence in Kenya as one of America’s most important security partners in Eastern Africa. Indeed, considering America’s geopolitical strategy in Africa, the world’s most powerful nation needs this scrawny and tiny midget state more than it needs the U.S.

Finally, American investors just love Kenya. They simply need this market. In 2014, U.S. exports to Kenya doubled, reaching $1.5bn. Kenya’s debut Eurobond, the same year, was a big success. It was subscribed by 500%. Instead of raising $1.5bn it bagged $2bn after it attracted bids four times its initial target. What’s more, U.S. investors bought about two thirds or 66% of the bonds. The sale was another huge vote of confidence in Kenya.

Obama saved the best African country to visit for last. “Karibu!”

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Nicholas Githuku

Assistant Professor, African History at York College, CUNY
Nicholas Githuku is a Ph.D. holder in African Studies. His research interests include: War & Peace Studies in general; Conflict and Security and mediation in general and trends in the Great Lakes the Horn Regions of Africa; Memorialization of War; Development studies (Sub-Saharan Africa): Postcolonial/Contemporary Kenyan Politics; European History (1648 to 1900); First and Second World Wars; and Post-1989 Eastern Europe (Balkans) History.