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Kenyan President to arrive in Japan

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Kenyan President to arrive in Japan

Kenyan President to arrive in Japan

Kenyan President William Ruto begins a state visit to Japan today.

During his four-day stay, Ruto is expected to meet with the Emperor of Japan and hold a summit with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

This trip follows Kishida’s visit to Kenya in May 2023, during which both leaders jointly condemned Russia’s invasion and agreed to strengthen economic cooperation, especially in areas related to Kenya’s infrastructure and decarbonization. Japan has over the past years been and important partner to help develop Kenyan transportation, health, agriculture and education infrastructure and will likely increase investment in the Eastern African country.

In turn, Kenya is becoming an important regional partner to Japan and also supports Japan’s vision of the “free and open Indo-Pacific”, which implicitly opposes China’s claims of sovereignty over the South China Sea. Chinese media have frequently criticized Japan’s involvement in Africa and compared it to colonization. However, Japan has been a major player in African development aid for far longer than China and is becoming increasingly sought after again. Unlike China’s infrastructure mega projects, Japanese development aid tends to focus on smaller and more sustainable aid, including through building schools, hospitals and core infrastructure.

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In many cases, China’s Belt and Road projects have been more expensive and delivered less than promised. One example is Kenya’s $5 billion railway, constructed with the help of Chinese companies and financed by Chinese loans, which has not delivered the expected economic benefits. As a result, Kenya is deeply indebted to China. During this week’s summit, President Ruto will likely seek additional economic cooperation and financing from Japan. Given Kenya’s issues with servicing its debt, Ruto might also seek Japanese support in obtaining additional credit or restructuring existing loans.

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