Joe Biden receives his Kenyan counterpart, Uhuru Kenyatta, the first African head of state to be invited to the White House by the Democratic president, in Washington on Thursday.
The two leaders will discuss “The strong bilateral relationship” between the two countries, as well as “The need for transparency and accountability in national and international financial systems”, the White House said ahead of the meeting. This agenda was made public shortly after the revelations of the “Pandora Papers”: this vast investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) notably asserts that Uhuru Kenyatta – who claims to want to fight corruption – secretly possesses with six members of his family a network of eleven offshore companies, one of which has assets valued at $ 30 million.
Asked about this information and its impact on the meeting, the White House spokeswoman said on Wednesday that “President (Biden) To(was) often denounced the inequalities in the international financial system ”. “This does not mean that we do not meet the people with whom we have differences”Jen Psaki added. “We have a number of subjects on which we have an interest to work with Kenya (…) and that will be the main focus” of the meeting, she concluded. The two presidents will also discuss “Efforts to defend democracy and human rights, the promotion of peace and security, how to boost economic growth and tackle climate change”, said the White House.
Another subject that could be raised: trade. The Trump administration had started discussions with Kenya on a free trade agreement but Joe Biden’s team has, according to Nairobi, not resumed negotiations for the time being. When signing contracts with private economic players in New York on Monday, Uhuru Kenyatta made no secret of his frustration on this subject. “I would like to tell our American friends that it is not possible to start and then to interrupt the discussion with their partners on the basis of a change of administration”, he said, according to a statement from his services.
Kenya is worried about the approach of the expiry date, in 2025, of an agreement which largely exempts its exports to the United States from customs duties. Washington, for its part, takes a dim view of the growing economic influence of China, a great rival, in Africa. But where his predecessor Donald Trump swore by bilateral trade negotiations, Joe Biden has so far shown rather great restraint in the matter. For example, he gave no pledge to the United Kingdom, also eager to sign a free trade agreement with the United States after Brexit.