Kenyan government signs HBCU agreement during visit to Spelman

The Kenyan government signed a framework agreement for future exchanges between Kenyan universities and American HBCUs
President of the Republic of Kenya, Dr. William Samoei Ruto, speaks during an event hosted by Spelman College, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Atlanta. Spelman College hosted the President Ruto for a series of events focused on developing a technology bridge between Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Kenyan scholars in order to lay the groundwork to prepare a generation of future leaders to meet ever-evolving market demands. (Hyosub Shin / AJC)

Credit: Hyosub Shin/AJC

Credit: Hyosub Shin/AJC

President of the Republic of Kenya, Dr. William Samoei Ruto, speaks during an event hosted by Spelman College, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Atlanta. Spelman College hosted the President Ruto for a series of events focused on developing a technology bridge between Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Kenyan scholars in order to lay the groundwork to prepare a generation of future leaders to meet ever-evolving market demands. (Hyosub Shin / AJC)

Kenyan President William Ruto has made Atlanta his first stop during his official state visit to the United States and the city’s historically Black colleges and universities are benefiting from the trip.

During a visit to Spelman College on Tuesday, Ruto’s government signed an agreement with the U.S. to establish an exchange between Kenyan universities and HBCUs. The framework pact was signed by representatives of Spelman and Morehouse colleges and Clark Atlanta and Howard universities, along with higher education and business executives in both countries.

Clinton White (foreground left), U.S. Counselor for USAID, and Musalia Mudavadi, Prime Cabinet Secretary of Kenya, sign a memorandum of understanding as President of the Republic of Kenya, Dr. William Samoei Ruto (background right), and U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Margaret “Meg” Whitman (background right) react, during an event hosted by Spelman College, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Atlanta. Spelman College hosted Ruto for a series of events focused on developing a technology bridge between Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Kenyan scholars in order to lay the groundwork to prepare a generation of future leaders to meet ever-evolving market demands. (Hyosub Shin / AJC)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

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Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

The goal of the framework is to enhance science, technology, engineering and math education, commonly called STEM, in the two countries and bolster economic development.

“We still have details to work out in terms of the partnership, but you know, what we really hope is that our students have the opportunity to go and learn in Kenyan schools, and Kenyan students will have the opportunity here,” Spelman President Dr. Helene Gayle told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“Our faculty will have opportunities to do research together and really build out partnerships in this very important area of STEM and technology,” she said.

The relationship between Kenyans and American higher education goes back more than 60 years when then-U.S. Senator John F. Kennedy helped fund young Kenyan leader Tom Mboya’s plan to bring students from his country to study in the U.S.

From 1959 to 1963, hundreds of Kenyans attended American colleges, including Barack Obama Sr., through what is sometimes referred to as the airlifts.

“By following in the footsteps of the historic airlift, we shall empower a new generation of disruptive thinkers, ambitious visionaries, and innovative problem solvers, and thus divine a brighter knowledge-driven future where progress transcends borders, transforms lives and delivers prosperity,” Ruto told the audience of Kenyan and American leaders gathered at Spelman.

This is not the first time an Atlanta HBCU has established relationships with African universities. In 2022, CAU was part of a group of HBCUs that signed a partnership with the World Bank and its Africa Centers of Excellence.

Last spring, Clark Atlanta University President George French and his counterpart at the University of Lomé in Togo signed a memorandum of understanding between the two schools for faculty and student exchanges, and to collaborate on research like poultry farming. French also visited the University of Ghana and said CAU would work with the university on cancer research.

Ruto’s U.S. visit

Ruto arrived in Atlanta on Monday for the first leg of his U.S. trip. He will meet with President Joe Biden in Washington, D.C., on Thursday for the first state visit by an African leader during the Biden Administration.

“President Ruto’s visit to Atlanta reflects the city’s growing global importance and underscores its central role in America’s progress towards a more inclusive democracy,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

Kenya President William Ruto pauses after laying a wreath at the tombs of Martin Luther King Jr., and Coretta Scott King, during a visit to the King Center Monday, May 20, 2024, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Credit: John Bazemore/AP

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Credit: John Bazemore/AP

Ruto’s trip comes as his country is preparing to imminently deploy police to Haiti, according to the New York Times. Kenya is leading a U.N.-backed mission that will bring 2,500 police officers from a coalition of countries to try to quell the violence in the Caribbean nation.

“Kenyan security officials, as I talk to you now, are in Haiti discussing how we can support the people of Haiti also to be part of the future by making sure that we stabilize that country,” Ruto told Gayle Tuesday during a fireside chat.

He also discussed his hopes for the newly signed education framework, his country’s ambitions and relationship with the U.S.

“The future is slowly but surely becoming a global village. Whatever happens in America, whatever you want to do, will influence what happens in Kenya and whatever happens in Kenya, by some means will find its way into America,” he said.

“Therefore the sooner we build bridges through initiatives like this education, the better for having a freer, a healthier, a safer and much more prosperous globe for all of us.”


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