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New US ambassador to Kenya arrives ahead of Tuesday's election

US Ambassador to Kenya Meg Whitman has just arrived in the capital Nairobi ahead of the country's heated presidential elections. She gave her first press conference over the weekend. While Whitman is more known for leading Fortune 500 companies than diplomacy, she says she will leverage her experience in this new role. 

The World

The new US ambassador to Kenya, Meg Whitman, has arrived at her new posting just in time for the country's presidential elections on Tuesday.

She spoke at her first press conference in the capital, Nairobi, on Sunday.

Whitman is mostly known for her experience leading top corporations like Ebay and Hewlett Packard and said she will bring that professional experience to her first diplomatic posting.

“I think my business background can be very helpful to an important agenda item for both our countries, which is improved economic, trade and development,” she said.

Whitman's arrival comes amid a flurry of US diplomatic activity on the continent.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is currently traveling the continent to launch a new US Strategy for sub-Saharan Africa. This closely follows recent official visits by US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield and USAID Administrator Samantha Power to discuss pressing issues such as food security on the continent.

“Kenya is one of the most important countries in Africa,” Whitman said. “The flurry of diplomatic activity is a recognition of the importance of Africa.”

The US and Kenya have a long diplomatic relationship and have recently been seeking to grow their trade and economic ties. Last month, the two countries launched a new strategic trade and development partnership.

Kenya also hosts the regional offices of many big American companies including Facebook, which has recently been criticized for not doing enough to stop hate speech during Kenya's election.

In response to those concerns, Whitman said she could leverage her background in Silicon Valley.

“I have a long background in Silicon Valley. Many of these companies are in Silicon Valley,” she said, adding, “I want to make sure that the companies who are responsible for these platforms also understand the positive and the negative effects around elections like this one coming.”

Whitman also said that she would prioritize the issue of extraordinary long wait times for those seeking US visas at the Embassy. 

“The situation is unacceptable,” she said. “We welcome Kenyan visitors and we celebrate our strong people-to-people ties. And this is not helping that at the moment.” 

Related: TikTok can be a ‘dangerous tool for hatemongers,’ Kenyan govt warns ahead of elections

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