World Bulletin / News Desk
Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta left Sunday to Washington heading a 46-member delegation to the three-day US- Africa summit, which opens on Monday.
On the sidelines of the summit, Kenya hopes the visit will afford an opportunity to mend fences with Washington and at the same time offer economic openings.
"The President and Energy Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala will separately hold meetings with a number of American energy companies who have shown their interest in investing in Kenya after the discovery of oil in our country," Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Edwin Limo told Anadolu Agency.
Oil was discovered in the northern part of the country in 2012 and Kenya hopes to be the first East African oil exporter by 2016.
"Kenya is in the first stage of oil exploration and needs more funding at this stage," John Muchiri, an energy consultant based in Nairobi, told AA.
"Oil exploration companies have not been forthcoming for various reasons including insecurity," he noted.
"The country needs approximately $16 billion for oil exploration operations in a period of three years before it starts to export its first barrel," said Muchiri.
The leaders of 50 African countries have been invited to the three-day summit, the first such event of its kind.
"This Summit, the largest event any U.S. President has held with African heads of state and government, will build on the President’s trip to Africa in the summer of 2013," the White House has said.
"It will strengthen ties between the United States and one of the world’s most dynamic and fastest growing regions," it added.
It said the three-day summit will "advance the Administration’s focus on trade and investment in Africa and highlight America’s commitment to Africa’s security, its democratic development, and its people."
Missing from the guest list are the leaders of Sudan, Zimbabwe, Eritrea and the Central African Republic.
Limo, the Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman, said Kenya is also hoping to use the summit to restore its image as a tourist destination.
"The delegation is also comprised of stakeholders in the tourism sector," he told AA.
"Kenya intends to restore its image and let the world know that it's still safe to visit our sandy beaches and national parks despite the bad press we are getting," Limo said.
Kenya is East Africa's largest economy but a spate of recent attacks, especially in the capital Nairobi and the coast region, has undermined the tourist sector, the country's second highest earner of foreign currency.
Many Western countries have advised their nationals against traveling to Kenya citing security concerns.
Business aside, experts say inviting President Kenyatta, who is facing trial before the International Criminal Court (ICC), is an important American gesture.
"U.S. President Barak Obama was clear before the 2013 elections that choices have consequences, which meant that if Kenyans elect Kenyatta who, together with his deputy, is facing charges at ICC, we stand to lose," Mustafa Ali, an international relations expert, told AA.
"Kenyatta has since taking charge increasingly looked towards the East, especially China," he noted.
"The invitation offers a chance for Kenyatta to mend relations with the US," added Ali.
Kenyatta and Obama, who is the son of a Kenyan father and an American mother, have not met since the former was elected president in 2013.Güncelleme Tarihi: 04 Ağustos 2014, 10:01