The new US Ambassador to Kenya, Margaret (Meg) Whitman, arrived in Nairobi at the weekend, where a full in-tray awaited her, including the upcoming General Election next week.
Ms Whitman was endorsed by the US Senate two weeks ago, more than seven months after President Joe Biden had nominated her to head the US Mission in Nairobi.
A Twitter post by the US Embassy in Nairobi showed Ms Whitman being welcomed to her new station by Charge d’Affaires Eric Kneedler. Mr Kneedler has been the acting ambassador since last year in January after the departure of Kyle MacCarter.
Welcome to Kenya Ambassador Whitman! 🇺🇸🇰🇪 pic.twitter.com/uPUxrSERPX— U.S. Embassy Nairobi (@USEmbassyKenya) August 1, 2022
Whitman, a former tech chief executive and one of the richest Americans to become President Joe Biden’s envoy to Nairobi, will await a formal presentation of credentials before beginning work.
But sources told The EastAfrican she could present them as soon as Wednesday. She is coming to Nairobi at a time Kenya is gearing up for elections.
Her country is one of the biggest external contributors to the ‘democracy and good governance’ programmes that have included supporting the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, as well as the Judiciary.
As is tradition, the US is expected to join other Western allies in observing the Kenya elections. But Ms Whitman is also arriving amid complaints of visa delays at the embassy in Nairobi. Some applicants for student visas have had to wait for up to six months for appointments.
Ms Whitman is a former Hewlett Packard (HP) CEO and president, and her arrival in Nairobi could also signal a turn in US policy towards business-oriented ties.
Two weeks ago, US Trade Representative Katherine Tai and Kenya’s Trade Cabinet Secretary launched a new US-Kenya Strategic Trade and Investment Partnership (STIP), listing eight priority areas to feature in future trade negotiations.
They include agriculture, digital trade, environment and climate change action, good regulatory practices, micro, small and medium enterprises support, labour rights, women and gender rights, quality standards and trade facilitation.
“The US and Kenyan governments will commence working within three months to develop a detailed roadmap for engagement in each of these areas,” Tai said in a statement.
As opposed to Trump, who wanted to negotiate a bilateral trade deal, Biden’s trade envoy said the new ‘roadmap’ would support “African regional economic integration.”
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Ms Whitman, born in August 1956, will be the first US female ambassador to Kenya in more than two decades, since Prudence Bushnell in 1999.