Africa: Ruto and Obama Discuss Africa's Future in Landmark Washington Meeting

First lady Jill Biden, second from left, and U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Meg Whitman, greet Kenya's President William Ruto and first lady Rachel Ruto as they arrive at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Wednesday, May 22, 2024.

Washington, D.C. — Kenyan President William Ruto and former U.S. President Barack Obama have held extensive talks on key issues affecting Africa, focusing on democratic developments, climate change, and security challenges. The meeting took place at Blair House on Wednesday during Ruto's historic state visit to the United States.

In a statement released after the meeting, President Ruto described the discussions as highly productive, noting that they covered a broad spectrum of topics relevant to Africa's future. "We exchanged views on democratic developments, climate, and peace and security challenges in Africa," Ruto said. Both leaders highlighted the importance of harnessing Africa's growing young population to drive innovation and economic growth.

The discussions also centred on expanding opportunities in technology, innovation, and education to capitalise on Africa's demographic dividend. "We reviewed opportunities available to Africa's young and dynamic demographic in tech, innovation, higher and technical education," Ruto added.

President Ruto's visit marks the first official state visit by an African leader to the U.S. in over 15 years. His trip began in Atlanta, Georgia, where he and First Lady Rachel Ruto visited the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum, underscoring the two nations' commitment to governance and anti-corruption efforts. Ruto also paid tribute to the civil rights movement at Ebenezer Baptist Church and discussed the US-Kenya health partnership at the CDC headquarters.

In Atlanta, Ruto met with the Kenyan diaspora and visited Spelman College to emphasise the importance of higher education in science and technology. He also explored opportunities in the creative economy at Tyler Perry Studios and potential investments at Coca-Cola. The day concluded with the inauguration of Vivo's first store and a dinner hosted by Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens.

On Wednesday, Ruto arrived in Washington, D.C., receiving full ceremonial state honours. He met with congressional leaders and held discussions on Capitol Hill, highlighting Kenya's role as a strategic partner in East Africa.

On Thursday, President Ruto and First Lady Rachel Ruto are scheduled to lay a wreath at Arlington Cemetery to honour American soldiers and historic figures. Later, they will hold a bilateral meeting with President Joe Biden to discuss development opportunities.

This state visit is expected to bolster the strategic relationship between Kenya and the United States, opening new avenues for economic collaboration and strengthening diplomatic ties. It also underscores Washington's renewed focus on Africa amid growing competition from global powers such as China and Russia.

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