William Ruto speech at UN Assembly gives key insights into his foreign policy

President William Ruto addresses the 77th Session of the UN General Assembly, New York, United States.

From an analytical point of view, it has been extremely difficult to tangibly predict how a William Ruto presidency will look like in the global stage.

He simply has had no traceable footprints on his views on world geo-economic politics. The hustler manifesto offered no insights into this nor how he intended to engage the world if he won the presidency.

Equally, given our checkered electoral history from the mythology of an all-powerful and invisible 'deep state' that could dictate its will on the people at will, it would appear his presidency was unexpected among majority of the elites. With hindsight, there are three factors that may explain this vacuum until his election night.

His humble beginnings in a country and by extension continent that worships power, elitism and economic might before merit and proven personal competences; a frosty relationship with his former boss, President Uhuru Kenyatta, that may have denied him legitimate opportunities to represent the nation in international forums as the Second-in-Command for the last ten years; or by deed of fate that the forces of nature had denied him the window until now.

I presume it has been a legitimate question for the world to wonder what to expect of his presidency given the strategic responsibilities Kenya has to the region and the world.

Similarly, Kenyans with a keen eye on the nation's image and interest in the world would have waited with bated breath for his first appearance on the global stage.

Nothing would have presented him with a better opportunity than the 77th UN General Assembly in New York. Did he disappoint or perform beyond expectations? Your guess is as good as mine. But time will surely tell.

Of interest to me here is: What hints can we pick from his 21 minutes address to the Assembly on his intended geo-economic engagements and foreign policy?

Active engagement

It is without a doubt that the president was ready for the moment and probably conscious of his limited prior networks at the pinnacle of world economics and politics.

He surely meant to announce not only his presence, but also the strides the country he now leads and represents has made on her democracy and responsibilities to global peace and order.

The smooth transition of power from a toxic campaign environment gives him and the Kenyan people some bragging rights in the world stage.

Reflecting on the speech, I foresee about five things the world should expect from his administration, holding all other factors constant.

One is an informed and proactive engagement on global issues. Besides his eloquence and ease with technology, he was believably quite apprised of the global agenda and challenges of climate change, food crisis, ravages of Covid-19 to the world economy, cyber security and conflicts articulated in his speech.

He was manifest physically present for most proceedings of the conference prior to his address and had ably weighed on the issues up for discussion.

Thus, the world must not expect to engage him based on written speeches or only advisories from his team, but plan to have a discourse inclusive of his personal research and convictions about the country and the world geo-economic politics.

This is traceable from his campaigns. In all the villages, markets and cities he traversed, he was always quite informed on specific location names, the real issues and knew names of real people. These traits he has brought them into his international engagements and will definitely shape his policies and modus operandi.

Two, the world should not expect any fence-sitting from Kenya on the weighty matters that nations will be expected to decide on. The firmness with which he spoke on the need to reform the Security Council and his willingness to exploit Kenya's seat in it to shape its future outlook are quite telling.

He left no doubt about the moral questions and ability of the Council to deal with the weighty matters that come before it, when there seems to be lack of inclusivity and fairness as currently constituted.

This was a bold bite on his first address ever to the Council and demonstrates he is unafraid to represent his people and the continent at large.

Three, reading between the lines, a keen observer cannot miss the feeling that his eyes are not just about leading his country but desires to have a bigger role in the African region and the rest of the developing world.

The ease with which he navigated the thorny issues that hound poorer nations and making proposals on their expectations from the developed nations leave no ambiguity as to his intend to be part of the broader conversation.

Again, we could find a trail towards this right from his inauguration, where he managed to reach out to the largest number of heads of State and Government from the region and into the country as per media accounts.

Market interventions

Four, in a major departure from the country's previous leadership, his views seems to lean on market interventions as opposed to seeking aid and grants on developmental partnerships. This could be traced on his sentiments for debt restructuring, collaboration on climate financing and the global fund to mobilize health finances.

Despite having inherited an economy battling a severe drought and complex fiscal space, he sought no direct aid relief, unless he would have done it in closed doors. These could further be followed on the advocacy for the rich nations to share their technologies to support poor countries find solutions to their internal challenges.

Five, it appears the 'hustlernomics' was not just a campaign vehicle into the presidency but a true believe on the need to reverse the trickle-down economic model into a bottom-up one. Speaking about it at the global stage signifies his intention for it to shape the country's domestic economic policies.

Foreign investors and development partners will thus have to engage based on its philosophies. Curiously, the speech seems to suggest a lack of enthusiasm on subsidies at the consumer level.

This would be interesting especially given the immediate challenges the country faces that need definitive action to cushion the majority on the bottom of the pyramid as he ably put it.

Finally, there are indications towards a conviction on shared partnerships and/or collaborations for mutual benefits. The president definitely seeks a greater presence of multilateral institutions into the country and foreign direct investments.

This may demand a deliberate effort of his part to push for broader reforms domestically to create an enabling environment.

Equally, that would demand he confronts head-on local challenges that are repugnant to civic global responsibilities at the country level like poor governance and smelly corruption.

Otherwise, congratulations Mr President.

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