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Vice President Harris and President William Ruto Discuss Digital Inclusion in Africa

Tinashe Mupasiri



Washington, D.C., May 24, 2024 — Vice President Kamala Harris and President William Ruto of Kenya convened at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to share insights on digital inclusion and its transformative potential for Africa. The conversation underscored the critical need for a redefined partnership between the United States and African nations, focusing on investment and innovation rather than traditional aid.

Kenya’s President William Ruto (left) and Vice President Kamala Harris participate in a discussion on Friday at the U.S.-Kenya Business Forum at the Chamber of Commerce in Washington. (AP/Susan Walsh)

Vice President Harris emphasized the importance of revisiting the narrative of U.S.-Africa relations, advocating for a partnership model that recognizes Africa’s substantial potential. She highlighted the continent’s youthful demographic, with a median age of 19 and projections indicating that by 2050, one in four people globally will be African. Harris argued that Africa’s future is pivotal to global growth, stressing the necessity of investing in the continent’s capacity for innovation and development.

“Our relationship should be viewed through the lens of partnership, not benevolence. It’s about investment, recognizing Africa’s proven capacity, and understanding that such investment will yield significant returns,” Harris stated. She highlighted Kenya as a prime example of successful U.S. partnership, particularly in sectors like technology, women’s empowerment, and addressing global challenges such as climate change.

President Ruto, known for his advocacy of tech and innovation in Kenya, shared his vision for leveraging technology to propel Kenya and Africa forward. He praised Kenya’s young, tech-savvy population and the country’s substantial investments in education and skills development, which amount to 30 percent of its budget. “Technology is the key to leapfrogging Africa’s development,” Ruto declared, citing the success of mobile money platform M-PESA as a testament to technology’s transformative power.

Ruto elaborated on Kenya’s ambitious digital initiatives, including moving 17,000 government services online, to enhance efficiency and accountability. He acknowledged the vital role of public-private partnerships in driving these advancements, referencing recent investments such as a billion-dollar deal involving Microsoft and G42 to develop tech infrastructure using Kenya’s renewable energy resources.

Both leaders stressed the importance of fostering an environment conducive to investment. Ruto called for an end to the extraction of raw materials without adding value locally and a shift away from dependency on aid. Instead, he advocated for investment-driven growth, emphasizing the necessity of recalibrating Africa’s global image to attract investment without the stigma of being a high-risk region.

Vice President Harris concluded by underscoring the mutually beneficial nature of U.S. investments in Africa. “Our future policy must focus on partnerships that bring together the scale of government and the expertise of the private sector. This approach will have exponential and immediate impacts, creating a sustainable and prosperous future for all,” she said.

The moderated conversation, facilitated by U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Meg Whitman, highlighted the collaborative spirit and forward-thinking strategies necessary to drive digital inclusion and economic growth in Africa. The dialogue marked a pivotal moment in U.S.-Africa relations, setting the stage for a future characterized by robust partnerships and shared prosperity.

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