Catching Up with Annie

Strengthening American-African Partnerships

Hello Friends,

America is faced with new and emerging challenges every day – from the COVID-19 pandemic to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and growing competition with China. It’s critical that we continue to lead on the global stage to meet the moment and counter heightened threats. That starts with building American diplomacy and investing in new opportunities to gain allies and partners around the world.

In August, I had the great honor of joining a bipartisan congressional delegation with 20 of my colleagues, representing communities all across the country, on a diplomatic trip to Nairobi, Kenya, to strengthen American-African ties and evaluate the future of our foreign policy in the region.

The bipartisan congressional delegation, including Reps. Susan Wild (D-PA) and John Curtis (R-UT), learned about the importance of American-African economic, security, and humanitarian partnerships.

I wanted to take this opportunity to share my experience representing the United States in Kenya and reflect on how our two countries will confront emerging threats in the years to come.

The United States and Kenya

African countries, with significant help from the U.S., have experienced substantial economic, private sector, education, and health care expansion over the last 20 years.

Investing in American partnerships with African nations, governments, industries, and businesses represents an incredible, mutually beneficial opportunity. Home to 30% of the world’s supply of critical minerals, Africa has a growing commodities market which is essential to the future of energy production and stability around the world. 

By 2050, it’s estimated that the African continent will represent 25% of the global population. Yet, African countries have often been overlooked as central economic, security, and strategic partners. In the face of emerging global threats and ramped-up competition with China, developing partnerships and alliances with African nations will play a critical role in countering foreign adversaries and ensuring stability on the global stage.

Whether it be curbing terrorist organizations that seek to destabilize Africa’s continued development or preventing foreign adversaries like China and Russia from controlling the continent’s critical mineral economy, the United States has a fundamental stake in the security, prosperity, and sovereignty of African nations. These strategic interests go hand-in-hand with our humanitarian concerns, as climate change and political unrest push thousands of people into refugee camps, acute malnutrition is widespread, and women face barriers to success. 

To confront global challenges, it is essential the United States builds new partnerships with African nations and establishes a strong foundation from which to grow. This bipartisan trip to Kenya allowed me to see the real-world impact of our American-African partnership, and I left feeling more certain than ever about the strong future of our shared interests.

Countering China’s Growing Influence

Although the United States provides significantly more development assistance to Africa, China is the continent’s leading trade partner.


China is a leading trade partner for African nations, exceeding the United States four times over. In order to counter China’s growing influence on the continent and create new opportunities for American and African companies to do business together, we must invest in building new avenues for economic, diplomatic, and strategic collaboration.

That is already underway thanks to the Biden administration’s pledge to invest $55 billion over the next three years to advance economic and political development in African countries. We are at a pivotal moment in our partnership with African governments and businesses as both China and the U.S. race to build relationships with the people and governments of Africa.

During the trip, it became clear there is no time to waste fostering American partnerships in the region. Congress has a role to play in this work, from investing in new trade opportunities and supply chains to joint security efforts and continuing to provide humanitarian assistance. We must seize this moment and demonstrate our commitment to forging lasting cooperation with African countries to counter China’s influence on the continent.

Strengthening U.S. National Security

A mother cares for her child at a malnutrition health clinic.

In an increasingly connected world, any conflict or unrest in African nations poses a major international security threat, especially as Africa’s influence and power grow.

The United States has invested millions of dollars over the past 20 years to support development and preservation efforts in Africa – including wildlife conservation, nutrition assistance, education expansion, HIV/AIDS prevention, and tourism programs. These initiatives provide jobs, sustain the economy, and contribute significantly to peace and stability across the region.

Kenya hosts nearly 540,000 refugees – 76% of whom are women and children. Hosting this many refugees without sufficient shelter, resources, or food has caused increased security concerns over the years. The Kenyan government has repeatedly threatened to close refugee camps over these safety considerations, which would have devastating consequences for refugees and asylum seekers.

By establishing African countries, including Kenya, as our strategic allies, the United States will be better positioned to address growing security concerns in Africa and beyond. Broadly focused development initiatives increase our global security and allow the U.S. to better partner with local governments to fight terrorist groups like Boko Haram, Al-Shabab, and Al-Qaeda. 

Instability in Africa provides ideal opportunities for terrorist groups and nations hostile to the United States to organize and launch attacks. Building partnerships with African nations to promote peace and stability further strengthens the safety and national security of the United States. 

Addressing Food Insecurity and Malnutrition 

Packages of ready-to-use supplementary food to treat severe acute malnutrition (SAM) arrive at a health clinic.

Food insecurity and malnutrition, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, have increased dramatically in recent years, partly due to weakened supply chains in the wake of COVID-19, the growing impact of climate change in developing countries, high energy and farming costs, and the war in Ukraine. Before Russia’s brutal invasion, Kenya imported 2.4 million tons of wheat from Ukraine every year. Those numbers have dwindled since the start of the war and will have a lasting impact on the continent’s growth and development beyond the immediate conflict. 

Acute malnutrition, especially in children, can stunt physical growth and development. The United States does and will continue to play a leading role in addressing malnutrition in African countries, including Kenya, through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which provide humanitarian food aid and health interventions around the world.

As we look to the future, the United States must prioritize expanding access to sufficient and nutritious food across the African continent. Another critical component of addressing malnutrition is innovative therapeutics known as RUTF and RUSF, Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food and Ready-to-Use Supplementary Food, respectively. These life-saving treatments offer real hope for addressing this crisis, but we must ensure they remain affordable to provide and accessible to administer to those in need.

Congress can help with this effort as we consider the Farm Bill and other national defense spending. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to deliver much-needed nutrition assistance to African nations and invest in the long-term well-being of our allies in Kenya and beyond.

Reckoning with the Impact of Climate Change

UNHCR staff help produce food for the thousands of refugees staying at the Kakuma refugee camp.

Developing countries are among the most severely impacted by the effects of climate change. 

Combating climate change and conserving our environment are essential for building sustainable and resilient economic development, preventing widespread poverty, and protecting the security of Kenya and other countries in the region. In one of our meetings at the Maasai Mara National Reserve, we spoke with community leaders and government officials about how the United States can help strengthen conservation efforts through public-private partnerships. These efforts contribute significantly to peace and stability in the region.  

One of the most sobering experiences on this diplomatic trip was our visit to the Kakuma Refugee Camp, located in the Northwestern region of Kenya, which is home to more than 250,000 refugees and asylum seekers, including thousands of children and families. These refugees come from across the continent, forced out of their homes due to war, political instability, and extreme weather caused by climate change.

I look forward to bringing these conversations and lessons back to Congress to work with Republicans and Democrats to address the impacts of climate change and political instability that fuel the refugee crisis in the region and around the world.

Empowering Women

Women learn how to sew and craft clothing at a job training site.

Women play a vital role in Kenya’s agriculture, food production, and family nutrition. Yet, they face numerous barriers that stop them from fully participating in the economy and, by extension, limit Kenya from reaching its economic potential.

When women are empowered, social and economic growth becomes more likely and sustainable. By investing in the education and health of women in Kenya and across the region, we can help protect economic gains and incentivize growth.

Women sell cakes and baked goods at a job training site.

During the bipartisan trip, we had the incredible opportunity to visit a women’s occupational training center focused on teaching women the skills they need to join the workforce and contribute to Kenya’s growing economy. At this training site, women were able to participate in a range of courses, from agriculture and sewing to baking and computer sciences. 

Women learn about the power and production of green energy at a job training site.

We also heard from Dr. Maria Nzomo, a leading expert on the political empowerment of women in the region and Kenya’s former permanent representative to the United Nations. Dr. Nzomo spoke to us about the many barriers women face, including gender-based violence, access to quality education and employment, and more.

Unlocking Africa’s full economic and agricultural potential requires we invest in the empowerment of women – that’s a lesson I plan to bring to my colleagues in Washington as we consider ways to strengthen our global food supply chains and build strong economic partnerships.

These are just a few of the many takeaways from this bipartisan diplomatic trip. The issues facing Africa are complex and deeply intertwined with America’s economic and national security priorities. I look forward to building our American-African ties and strengthening our partnerships with nations across the continent.

Together, we can build a stronger, more peaceful future for all.

Be bold, be brave, be kind.

Annie Kuster