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Vilém Řehák

Abstract

Economic cooperation between the US and Kenya has reflected the ups and downs in the relations between the two countries. Since independence, both countries have converged on security issues and diverged on questions of democracy and human rights. When Barack Obama was elected as the President of the US, Kenya expected to get an “Obama bonus” in the form of closer trade and investment cooperation. This article analyzes what is the image of US–Kenya economic relations in the news discourse. The analysis reveals that three different and competing narratives are present in the news discourse in Kenya. The US disseminates a narrative that economy, security, good governance and human resources are four interconnected and mutually reinforcing pillars of African development; Kenya must make progress in all these four pillars, and the US is ready to help Kenya. Kenyan leaders seem to internalize the economic part of the narrative and accept the nexus between economy and security, but they reject the nexus between economy and political issues. Finally, the Kenyan society internalizes both these narratives, albeit to a different degree, with the latter prevailing over the former. However, it also produces its own narrative, which presents current US–Kenya economic relations in a different perspective. The whole US engagement in Kenya hardly goes beyond the symbolical level. It is driven by US economic interests and competition with China, while there is no “Obama bonus” for Kenya.