US-Africa Relations: A Case Study of US-Kenyan Economic Diplomacy


  • Vahid Nick Pay
  • Ronny Gitonga-Mutethia


Challenging the predominant tendency of political economy scholars and practitioners to rationalize the evolution towards unprecedented US-African bilateral Free Trade Agreements almost exclusively through the lens of US interests and global geoeconomic rivalries—and rarely from the perspective of deliberate and calculated intentions of African countries—this article establishes that the progressive recalibration of the US-Kenya economic diplomacy between 2001-2020 has been shaped in equal measure by two separate but complementary mechanisms. The first is a systemic mechanism that arises from the US neorealist balance-of-threat responses to the global geoeconomic realignment. The second is a reductionist agential mechanism from the Kenyan side that is exhibited through the constructivist-reimagining by the State of its identity within its regional structures, as well as a series of interventions by high profile state-based actors and an influential Kenyan business sector. The article exposes vital but unheralded factors that impact asymmetric US-Africa economic diplomacy and challenges the ostensible notion that Kenya and other African states are merely ‘acted-upon’ peripheral actors in the ongoing global trade policy reformulation.