US investments in Kenya to overshadow aid cuts: official

US investments in Kenya to overshadow aid cuts: official
KEVIN J KELLEY

By KEVIN J KELLEY
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A recent cut in US funding for combating HIV/Aids in Kenya does not amount to a scaling back of US interests in the country, the State Department’s top Africa official said on Wednesday.

“Our official government funding that we spend around the world represents a very, very small percentage of total US investment in countries,” Tibor Nagy, the assistant secretary of state for African affairs, told reporters.

“A great proportion of investment in Africa comes from our private sector,” the diplomat added.

In the case of Kenya, US foreign direct investment totalled $405 million in 2017 — a 7.5 percent decrease from 2016, according to the Office of the US Trade Representative.

The US also registered $644 million in imports from Kenya in 2018 — a 12.6 percent increase from the previous year, the same source indicates.

Mr Nagy offered his comments on US government assistance and private investment in response to a journalist’s question about a sharp reduction in assistance to Kenya through the President’s Emergency Programme for Aids Relief (Pepfar).

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He stressed that the US enjoys “a very positive relationship with Kenya.”

Pepfar funding for Kenya is being cut from about $500 million last year to $375 million for the 2020 US fiscal year. There is fear that hundreds of Kenyans working in non-governmental organisations (NGOs) dependent on Pepfar financing could lose their jobs.

Those downward budgetary revisions for the Kenya programme are framed in an August memo to the US global Aids coordinator as a reflection of Pepfar’s success in helping combat the epidemic.

“The Kenya HIV/Aids programme has made significant progress against the HIV epidemic by putting over one million of people on treatment, while building a national clinic, laboratory and supply system,” noted the memo to Dr Deborah Birx from two Pepfar officials.

Kenya has been given more than $6 billion in Pepfar funds since the inception of the US programme in 2003, the officials pointed out.

Additional reductions in Pepfar aid to Kenya are likely to be made in the coming years as the epidemic is brought under control, the memo suggests.

Future Pepfar funding for Kenya “will be predicated on sustaining those gains and will assume ever-increasing [Kenyan] government leadership, responsibility and funding for the HIV/Aids response,” the US officials wrote.

In his press briefing on Wednesday, Assistant Secretary of State Nagy emphasised Washington’s reliance on US corporate investment as a means of boosting development in African countries.

The Trump administration’s Africa policy has a “number-one priority of very dramatically increasing trade and investment with the continent,” Mr Nagy said.

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