Biden won. What does that mean for Kenya?

Joe Biden celebrates onstage at his election rally, after the news media announced that he had won the 2020 US presidential election over President Donald Trump, in Wilmington, Delaware, US, November 7, 2020. [Reuters]

Former Vice President Joe Robinette Biden won the White House in a nail-biting contest, edging President Donald Trump and ending a four-year era of bullish rule. 

And as power ebbs away from the 74-year-old Trump, different countries are preparing for a Democrats administration that has vowed to "repair the damage done."

But what does that mean for Kenya?

Already, President Uhuru Kenyatta has congratulated president-elect Biden for his "emphatic win" and described him as a friend of Kenya.

Kenyatta, in a statement, said Biden helped renew the renew Kenya-USA ties.

"His win therefore presents an even bigger and better platform for our two countries to collaborate more closely for the prosperity of the people of our two nations," he said from Rome, Italy.

Here is a rundown of how a Biden presidency – poised to officially start on January 20, 2021 – could affect Kenya's 47.5 million people.

On Trade and Economy

While Biden, 77, toes a tough line on trade and shares the 'America first' tendencies as Trump and has signaled to take a more incorporative approach in negotiations.

This would in essence mean improved multilateral policies in trade agreements with Kenya earning more from such agreements.

Currently, there are negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Kenya and the US which look likely to continue during Biden's rule. Free trade policies in general provide for free movement of goods and services between countries.

The FTA seeks to undo reliance on tariff preferences and is expected to replace the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) which will expire in 2025.

AGOA was signed by US President Bill Clinton as a 15-year trade pact allowing exporters from Africa and several other developing countries duty-free access to the US market.

President Barrack Obama extended it to 2025 during his visit to Kenya in 2015.

With the US being the third most important destination for Kenyan exports after Uganda and Pakistan, a proper FTA will cushion Kenya from the uncertainties of AGOA's extension and herald enhanced trade and thus more wealth.

If signed, the FTA will be the first trade pact the US is entering with a sub-Saharan African nation.

Kenya could also benefit from the Africa Trade and Investment Program (ATIP) that is billed to aim at contain US dwindling influence in the continent as more nations look East.

On Healthcare

Policy experts foresee a reversal of restrictions to global health aid imposed by the Trump administration that hurt the provision of essential health services in Kenya, including the fight against HIV and Aids.

In 2017, the US — the world's largest health donor — ended funding for the UN population fund (UNFPA) that is responsible for family planning and ending child deaths.

The fund cuts, according to non-governmental organisations, saw a jump in risky backstreet abortions as access to contraceptives was curtailed.

Trump's decision to reduce contributions to the World Health Organisation also put the management of infectious and non-infectious disease on the line.

Executive Director of Network for Adolescent and Youth of Africa Victor Rasugu said that a Biden win will "bring back hope and sanity" in the health sector.

"Countries like Kenya will once again be free to offer the reproductive health continuum of care to its populace without being whipped into a certain policy direction that they are not party to," he told Reuters.

With Biden keen on putting a halt to the coronavirus pandemic, he is likely to restore or even increase the funding to the WHO. He has promised to cancel the US withdrawal from the UN agency that Trump initiated in July. 

On Climate

The US withdrew from the Paris Agreement on Wednesday and walked back on its pledge to cut US emissions by 26 to 28 per cent by 2025 from 2005 levels under the deal.

This is, however, not expected to hold for long as Joe Biden has promised to re-join the accord and set a target of net-zero emissions by 2050. He is also banking on huge green technology investments.

Biden's predecessor withheld money it had pledged to the Green Climate Fund that would have been used to strengthen the resilience of African countries to climate change as they bear the biggest brunt of its devastation yet produce the least emissions. The US had committed to provide $3 billion but only gave $1b.

On foreign Policy and Diplomacy

While Kenya has not been greatly on the path of Trump's disruptive approach to global relations, Biden's rule presents a mixed bag of fortunes for the country.

Biden, like his predecessor, will be keen on countering China's influence in the continent and especially Kenya which has headed Xi Jinping's way to pocket loans for developing its infrastructure.

The resultant competition for the two superpowers would mean Kenya is presented with good options.

It is also quite unlikely that Biden will withdraw US troops from Somalia as desired by Trump. The US has some 700 soldiers under the US Africa Command fighting Al Shabaab insurgents in Somalia. Their withdrawal could have left African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) — which Kenya is a party to — less effective given the counterterrorism services they provide.

Biden's immigration reforms could also mean well for undocumented Kenyans living in the US. At a campaign debate, he said he sent to the US Congress a pathway to citizenship for over 11 million undocumented people within 100 days in office.

The president-elect has also promised to rescind the travel bans that prohibit foreign nationals from several majority Muslim countries from entering the United States.