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Biden, Kenya Leader Urge Smaller Debts 05/23 06:15

   President Joe Biden and Kenyan President William Ruto are using the first 
state visit to the United States by an African leader in more than 15 years to 
call on economies around the globe to take action to reduce the enormous debt 
burden crushing Kenya and other developing nations.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Joe Biden and Kenyan President William Ruto are 
using the first state visit to the United States by an African leader in more 
than 15 years to call on economies around the globe to take action to reduce 
the enormous debt burden crushing Kenya and other developing nations.

   The call to action, dubbed the Nairobi-Washington Vision, comes as Biden 
presses his appeal to African nations that the U.S. can be a better partner 
than economic rival China. Beijing has been deepening its investment on the 
continent -- often with high-interest loans and other difficult financing terms.

   Biden and Ruto want creditor nations to reduce financing barriers for 
developing nations that have been constrained by high debt burdens. They also 
call on international financial institutions to coordinate debt relief and 
support through multilateral banks and institutions providing better financing 

   "Together we will call to the international community to come together 
around these elements to support high-ambition countries with high-ambition 
financial support," the White House said in a fact sheet detailing the effort.

   The White House also announced $250 million in grants for the International 
Development Association, part of the World Bank, to assist poor countries 
facing crises.

   Separately, a $1.2 trillion government funding bill passed by Congress in 
March allows the U.S. to lend up to $21 billion to an International Monetary 
Fund Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust, which provides zero-interest loans to 
support low-income countries as they work to stabilize their economies, boost 
growth and improve debt sustainability. That funding is expected to be made 
available to the IMF in the coming weeks.

   Biden and Ruto are set to hold formal talks and a joint news conference on 
Thursday before a state dinner in a pavilion on the South Lawn of the White 

   An Associated Press analysis of a dozen countries most indebted to China -- 
including Pakistan, Kenya, Zambia and Laos -- found the debt is consuming an 
ever-greater amount of tax revenue needed to keep schools open, provide 
electricity and pay for food and fuel.

   Behind the scenes is China's reluctance to forgive debt and its extreme 
secrecy about how much money it has loaned and on what terms, which has kept 
other major lenders from stepping in to help.

   Kenya's debt-to-GDP ratio tops 70%, with the bulk of it owed to China. 
Credit ratings agency Fitch estimates Kenya will spend almost one-third of its 
government revenues just on interest payments this year.

   Ruto said Wednesday that his talks with Biden will address "how we can have 
a fairer international financial system where all countries are treated 

   Biden was also informing Congress on Thursday that he will designate Kenya a 
major non-NATO ally, according to the White House

   The designation, while largely symbolic, reflects how Kenya has grown from a 
regional partner that has long cooperated with U.S. counterterrorism operations 
on the continent to a major global influence -- even extending its reach into 
the Western Hemisphere. Kenya will be the first sub-Saharan African country to 
receive the status.

   Kenya is expected to soon deploy 1,000 police officers to Haiti to help 
quell gang violence that has ravaged the Caribbean nation for months. The Biden 
administration has praised Kenya for stepping up in Haiti when so few other 
countries have declined to do so. Haiti is the Western Hemisphere's poorest 
nation and has been mired in political instability and natural disasters for 

   The U.S. has pledged $300 million in financial assistance for the Haiti 
mission, which will also include support from the Bahamas, Barbados, Benin, 
Chad and Bangladesh. Ruto is expected to discuss the coming mission with Biden, 
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and other officials during his Washington talks.

   Ruto arrived in Washington on Wednesday and began his three-day state visit 
by meeting with Biden and tech executives from Silicon Valley and Kenya's 
growing tech sector --known as the Silicon Savannah.

   Administration officials said that several private sector investments are 
expected to be announced during the visit. The Kenyan president told the tech 
executives that Kenya --and Africa more broadly -- have a young, innovative 
populace that is "hungry for opportunities."

   "I think we have a historic moment to explore investment opportunities 
between Kenya and the United States," Ruto said.

   Biden gathered dozens of African leaders in Washington in December 2022 to 
make the case that the United States under his watch was "all in" on Africa's 
future. He laid out billions in promised government funding and private 
investment on the continent in health, infrastructure, business and technology. 
The Democrat also promised to visit sub-Saharan Africa in 2023.

   But other priorities got in the way last year, including the Israel-Hamas 
war and Biden's long battle with Republicans to renew funding for Ukraine in 
its war with Russia. The promised visit to Africa by Biden never materialized. 
Biden, who faces a tough reelection battle in November, said in an exchange 
with reporters as Ruto arrived at the White House on Wednesday that he still 
plans to go to Africa.

   "I plan on going in February after I'm reelected," Biden said.

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