Kenya: U.S. Relations With Kenya

Plastic bag vendors at Kisii fresh produce market (file photo).

More information about Kenya is available on the Kenya Page and from other Department of State publications and other sources listed at the end of this fact sheet.


The United States established diplomatic relations with Kenya in 1964, following its December 1963 independence from the United Kingdom. The United States and Kenya have enjoyed cordial relations and an enduring partnership since Kenya's independence. Relations became closer after Kenya's democratic transition of 2002 and subsequent improvements in civil liberties. Longstanding mutual interests in the region and wide-ranging cooperation on economic and security issues underpin a strong bilateral relationship. As one of East Africa's largest economies, Kenya is a growing business, financial, and transportation hub for the region, and U.S. investment in Kenya and bilateral trade are important elements of the U.S.-Kenya relationship. In August 2018, Presidents Trump and Kenyatta formally elevated the relationship to a Strategic Partnership and established a corresponding annual strategic dialogue. In May 2019, the United States hosted the inaugural U.S.-Kenya Bilateral Strategic Dialogue in Washington, D.C. And in July 2020 the United .States. and Kenya launched negotiations for a bilateral Free Trade Agreement, the first in sub-Saharan Africa.

Ethnic-based political divisions, interference in key institutions, corruption, and impunity have posed challenges to Kenya's democracy. In the wake of widespread violence following the disputed 2007 presidential election, Kenyans adopted a new constitution in a national referendum in August 2010, which mandated devolution of some political authority and funding to Kenya's 47 counties. Kenya's 2013 and 2017 elections were more peaceful, though concerns remain about the independence and credibility of democratic institutions and the government's adherence to the rule of law. Kenya's next election is scheduled for 2022.

U.S. Security Relationship with Kenya

The United States has a strategic interest in Kenya's security and stability, and that commitment is reflected in our partnership on regional and global security issues. The United States has four security assistance objectives in Kenya: 1) professionalize the Kenyan military forces; 2) increase Kenyan counterterrorism and border security capabilities; 3) increase maritime security awareness; and 4) improve peacekeeping capabilities. Our longstanding security assistance program is a cornerstone of the bilateral relationship

U.S. Assistance to Kenya

As a developing partner in East Africa, Kenya is a recipient of significant U.S. foreign assistance. The United States seeks to advance its national security and economic prosperity interests by helping strengthen economic stability, security, health, education, environment, rule of law, and democratic governance in Kenya, as well as by countering violent extremism and combatting wildlife trafficking. As part of U.S. global leadership, the United States is supporting Kenya's efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic through training and research, equipment, testing, and supporting health, water, sanitation, education, employment, and food security needs.

Bilateral Economic Relations

Kenya's diversified economy has produced 5-6 percent annual GDP growth over the last decade, and an increasing number of American companies have established their regional or Africa-wide headquarters in Nairobi. Kenya remains East Africa's largest and most important business, financial, and transportation hub, with 80 percent of East Africa's trade flowing through Mombasa Port. The United States was the third largest destination for Kenya's exports and the seventh largest source of its imports in 2017. The United States was the number one source of foreign tourist arrivals to Kenya in 2016 and 2017, with NY-Nairobi direct flights launched in 2019. U.S. private sector interest in Kenya remains robust with numerous American companies engaged in Kenya, especially in the technology, consumer services, banking, and finance sectors. Kenya enjoys preferential trade benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act, and in 2020, Presidents Trump and Kenyatta launched negotiations for the first Free Trade Agreement in sub-Saharan Africa. U.S. imports from Kenya include apparel, coffee, and tea. U.S. business investment is primarily in services, information technology, and the tourism industry. The United States also has signed trade and investment framework agreements with the East African Community and with the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa. Kenya is a member of both regional organizations.

Educational and Cultural Exchange

The U.S.-Kenyan partnership includes collaboration on academic, cultural, and sports exchange programs, as well as social-inclusion initiatives that engage diverse communities. Kenya is a strong supporter of English-language education, academic mobility initiatives, and bilateral exchanges. Students, government officials, and professionals from both countries have participated in a wide variety of U.S. and Kenyan government-supported academic and specialized exchange programs, including the Fulbright Program and the Young African Leadership Initiative's Mandela Washington Fellowship.

The U.S. government supports a network of five American Spaces in Kenya. The Spaces provide a wide range of resources to Kenyans, including high-quality English-language teaching and free cultural events and educational advising services.

Kenya's Membership in International Organizations

Kenya and the United States belong to a number of the same international organizations, including the United Nations, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and World Trade Organization. In January 2021, Kenya will begin a two-year rotation on the UN Security Council as a non-permanent member.

Bilateral Representation

The U.S. Ambassador to Kenya is Kyle McCarter. Other principal embassy officials are listed in the Department's Key Officers List.

Kenya maintains an embassy in the United States at 2249 R Street NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-387-6101).

More From: State Department

Don't Miss

AllAfrica publishes around 900 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 500 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.