The fact that the president of the U.S. has Kenyan heritage plays an important part in Kenya's love for the U.S., but it is not the only cause. Here are a few others:
- The U.S. funds a lot of anti-retro viral (ARV) drugs for Kenyans to fight HIV and AIDS through the PEPFAR program (Partnership to Fight HIV/AIDS in Kenya(pepfar.gov)). The disease has had a devastating impact on Kenya and the U.S. has done a lot of work to slow its course. There are other aid programs as well through USAID that have had some benefits and some drawbacks, but PEPFAR has been the most visible (and employed many Kenyans).
- U.S. tourists are a regular fixture in Kenya, and tourism plays a huge role in Kenya's economy: "Tourism is now Kenya's largest foreign exchange earning sector, followed by flowers, tea, and coffee. In 2006, tourism generated US$803 million, up from US$699 million the previous year" (Economy of Kenya (wikipedia.org)). There are certainly many tourists from other countries, especially the UK, Germany and Italy, but those carry a bit more colonial baggage.
- Kenya has one of the strongest business sectors in the region and sees the U.S. as a good model in this sense (much more so than many countries in the EU). In fact, this probably plays an important role in the popularity of Mitt Romney in Kenya. John McCain was much less popular (his background was in the military, which is not universally loved by Kenyans).
- The U.S. has not taken a stance on the International Criminal Court. This is a highly divisive issue in Kenya because several high ranking political figures are on trial there. Though it's not intentional, the U.S. has avoided a fairly hot-button issue.
- Music and movies. Jay-Z, 50 Cent, Rihanna, Beyonce are all hugely popular. Their faces are plastered all over buses and advertisements. Kenyans also love a lot of the action movies that come out of Hollywood. I mean, in the U.S., I don't think there's any chance I would have seen the Tekken (2010)(imdb.com) movie, but in Kenya, I watched with a bus full of people who loved it. (The only reason this is so low on the list is that this is probably fairly common across other countries in the region, so it does not explain the reason that Kenya views the U.S. more favorably than neighboring countries)
There are other reasons as well, but these are some of the main ones.
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