US ‘Prosper’ kicks off engagement with Kenya

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The US government in Kenya is working to counter the growing influence of China locally and regionally by developing grassroots-based initiatives that will spur US business investments and address slow growth rates in rural areas.

The initiative is in line with a bigger agenda by the US government to instill dominance in key global locations mainly in Asia, Africa and Latin America where China has made significant inroads in socio-political and economic development.

The US ambassador to Kenya Kyle McCarter announced that his government through Prosper initiative that was announced by US President Donald Trump last year will work with 8 pilot counties dubbed ‘Prosper Counties’ to spur growth. These counties selected on the basis of high economic potential, effective governance practices, and a commitment in creating an enabling environment for business growth.

“We’re going to put forth projects that have meaning to Kenyans. Our shared goal is to pave a path to Kenyan self-reliance, for Kenya to move from beneficiary to benefactor,” McCarter said.

The selected Prosper Counties include Isiolo, Kakamega, Kiambu, Kisii, Kisumu, Makueni, Mombasa, and Nakuru. The selected counties have been asked to submit proposals to the US embassy in Nairobi which in return will link the counties with the private sector to advance ‘Kenya’s journey to self-reliance’ by contributing to job creation, improving economic development and expanding tax revenues.

“Kenya has all the resources it needs to be a shining star in Africa and even all over the world. It has strength in its young people and all other resources it needs. For us in the US is to help Kenya achieve this potential,” the ambassador noted. “The United States model focuses on long-term growth and sustainability, not debt.”

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 A new report shows US firms beat China in investments in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Ethiopia — with an outlay of Sh803.4 billion ($7.8 billion) between 2014 and 2018.

The Ernst & Young (EY) Attractiveness Survey 2019 showed the cash invested by US companies was Sh113.3 billion, or 14.10 percent, more than $6.7 billion (Sh690.1 billion) by Chinese firms, according to the annual survey.

The announcement was made during the second American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) Business Summit held in Nairobi. Over 200 companies participated in the Summit at the UN Complex in Gigiri.

The American Chamber of Commerce – AmCham Kenya – is a nonprofit business membership organization that exists to facilitate and grow two-way Kenya – U.S. business by connecting businesses to information, new partners and opportunities while at the same time advocating for an improved business environment to enable businesses to thrive.

AmCham Kenya is part of a global network of 117 AmChams, including AmChams in Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda, working together to promote mutually beneficial global trade and investment with the U.S.

Speaking during the event, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta said that his government was working on developing an ideal atmosphere for external investors.

The President noted the low trade volumes between Kenya and the US, and expressed optimism the newly agreed strategic partnership between the two countries will help lift the numbers.  “I am convinced we can do better than this; and there is a lot to build upon.  I, however, note with satisfaction that a wide range of U.S. companies are investing in Kenya and across the East Africa region,” said the President.

Read also: Kenya attracts major American Investors despite decelerating economy

In his opening statement, AmCham CEO, Maxwell Okello described the purpose of the Summit as “a place where businesses come to meet and explore information, ideas and opportunities, driven by the spirit of partnership for mutual benefit.”

AmCham Board President Phillipine Mtikitiki in her remarks discussed the interest of U.S. private sector in partnering with local businesses in Kenya and the East Africa region describing a mutually beneficial partnership that seeks to “support and develop the local private sector with the aim of creating foreign-domestic linkages.”

She described local companies as “excellent partners adding value to investors by their knowledge of local markets and access to local opportunities.” She further reiterated the importance of partnerships with local companies form an American private sector perspective describing them as a means to, “Strengthen the capacity of the domestic economy and provide stability to American businesses invested in Kenya and the region.”

Kenya and the U.S. are currently in discussions as part of the Bilateral Strategic Engagement to find a way forward in trade relationships between the two countries beyond AGOA’s expiration date in 2025. The second meeting of the Trade and Investment Technical Working Group working on this is taking place on the sidelines of the Summit.

In line with this, AmCham Board President Phillipine Mtikitiki confirmed AmCham’s support for, “Open, comprehensive and reciprocal trade agreements, that will not only contribute to a more enabling business environment but also give more opportunity to benefit from export trade.”

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