09-11-2020 by Freddie del Curatolo
What will change for Kenya with the end of the Trump era and the new President of the United States Joe Biden?
First of all, it must be remembered that politically, for this country and for the entire continent, the return of the Democrats and the moderate wing represented by Biden and Kamala Harris is not a leap in the dark.
Biden had already been vice-president during the Obama administration.
Then clearly the Kenyan-born leader was hailed not so much for "Dem" but for being the first black president in American history. Today his historic deputy presents Harris who, while calling himself "not white", has clear African-American roots on his father's side.
Biden knows Kenya and its leaders well, having personally participated, as a member of Senate committees, in the process of pacification and economic and social recovery after the political crisis and civil unrest in 2008. Two years later, his visit to Nairobi was important to congratulate then President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga on the decision to hold a referendum to modernise and improve the Constitution.
"Putting in place a new Constitution and strengthening democratic institutions and the rule of law will facilitate processes and create new corridors for major American development programs," Joe Biden said at the time, "I am sure it will lead to reinvestment by American companies and international organizations in Kenya that can provide millions of dollars in assistance and grants. This was indeed the case, even though the most important agreements of the Millennium Challenge Account, the US grants programme in the context of bilateral relations with foreign countries, for Kenya has recently been perfected, promoted to "strategic partnership" and signed in New York by Uhuru Kenyatta and Donald Trump, with the latter at the height of the heated election campaign.
In fact, it cannot be said that the Trump leadership has been hostile to Kenya, either to face Chinese dominance in sub-Saharan Africa. The attention in import-export and the good word at the right time with the World Bank (which, however, was recently put on the alert for doubts related to corruption and mismanagement of funds for infrastructure and Covid-19 funds management) have consolidated the good relations with the Kenyatta government.
Two were the sore points of its administration which in some way also affected Kenyan policies, particularly in the last year.
The first: Trump's refusal to contribute to the battles on the environment and climate change, of which Kenya is a proud spokesman, not limiting itself to meetings but signing watershed laws, such as the elimination of plastic bags. At the moment the USA has left the Treaty of Paris for the "climate challenge", while Biden has made his country's active presence in the battles on the environment one of the strong points of the election campaign, receiving Trump's mockery several times openly, calling the climate battles "a hoax".
For Kenya, the rise of the ocean that is threatening its wonderful coastline, the rise of the lakes that are taking away cultivated land and entire villages and the locust invasion, combined with severe droughts, are not a hoax but real problems to deal with. Surely such an important partner who is aware of these problems will come in handy.
The second is the exit from the World Health Organization and the semi-negativist management of the Covid-19, which is in contrast to the confidence shown by the Kenyan Government in following the main WHO directives in the medical field, also obtaining important help.
Ready the comment of Biden's former Kenyan counterpart at the time of Vice President Obama, Kalonzo Musyoka: "The victory of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris announces the return of the United States to multilateralism and confidence in international organisations such as the WHO. Congratulations President-elect . We look forward to welcoming you back to Kenya". Kalonzo tweeted.
The management of the pandemic is reported by the President-elect as a top priority for his country and this could mean a rapprochement to international rules and guidelines that would bring the US and Kenya back to similar positions.
Finally, in the economic field, the discourse is broader and concerns the entire continent, to which Trump has never given much rope, also as said for the flirting of many states with the yellow "enemy".
He has never organised a summit on Africa in Washington (the last one was Obama's in 2014) and his foreign policy has never officially put in a good word about the free trade programme between African nations. These would eventually replace the non-reciprocal African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which allows exports from eligible African countries to the United States, free of duties and quotas. In addition, he has frozen the appointment of African exponents to high-ranking positions in world bodies, including the predicate of Kenya's Minister of Culture and Sport and former Minister of Foreign Affairs Amina Mohamed.
With regard to the debt of African countries, particularly aggravated by the health crisis, the warning to the new US administration comes from the Director of the Africa Programme of the Strategic and International Studies Centre in Washington DC, Judd Devermont.
"The next administration, regardless of who wins, urgently needs to address the debt crisis," explains Devermont. "The US has been quick to blame Beijing for the continent's misfortunes, but the new presidency could move more decisively towards longer and more generous debt moratoria and rescue measures, as well as flexible special drawing rights with the IMF.
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