US, Kenya look to strengthen business, trade ties

The U.S. and Kenya will hold a new round of trade talks next month, they said on Friday, as the two countries tout new business deals and look to boost economic ties.

Kenyan President William Ruto was in Washington for a State visit as the White House pledged new partnerships on technology, security and debt relief to the East African democracy.

“Investors like what they see in Kenya,” Ruto said, courting business leaders at an event, vowing to make it easier to do business.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo urged business leaders to maintain momentum after the week’s events. We cannot go home, feel excited for the weekend and move on,” Raimondo said. “We’re all in on Africa, all in on Kenya. Let’s go make more deals together.”

The U.S. Trade Representative’s Office said the countries will hold the sixth in-person negotiating round under the Strategic Trade and Investment Partnership (STIP) in Mombasa from June 3 to 7 after a round in Washington this month.

Ruto said he had addressed concerns by Alphabet’s Google to make it easier to operate and listed a number of tax and other policies to encourage direct foreign investment.

Alphabet’s president and chief investment officer Ruth Porat said on Friday Google was boosting investment in Kenya, including in a partnership to build the first-ever fiber optic route to directly connect Africa with Australia, that passes through the continent to South Africa before crossing the Indian Ocean to Australia.

Ruto added Kenya had been working to attract big tech firms and startups through its “Silicon Savannah” and added Kenya is focused on production of e-mobility vehicles.

“The Kenyan government in the next policy framework we will be eliminating all taxes for companies that will locally manufacture the first 100,000 two-wheelers and four-wheelers in Kenya,” Ruto said.

The U.S. International Development Finance Corporation this week announced a $10 million direct loan to BasiGo, an electric vehicle company leasing and selling electric buses to Kenyan public transport bus operators and a $10 million loan to Kenyan company Roam Electric to support producing electric motorcycles in Nairobi.

Among the deals signed on Friday include a Kenya and Microsoft partnership to build a $1 billion 1-gigawatt datacenter in Naivasha, Kenya that will run on Microsoft MSFT.O Azure cloud services and offer access to cloud-based applications.

The move will allow the Kenyan government to move its data and services to trusted vendors, the White House said.

Microsoft President Brad Smith said under a partnership the company will help bring internet services to 20 million people next year in Kenya.

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