Brionne Dawson
Former Senior Director, East & Southern Africa, U.S. Africa Business Center, U.S. Chamber of Commerce


October 30, 2018


This week, Kenya Airways launched its first daily, non-stop flights between Nairobi and New York, becoming one of only a few African national airlines with the ability to offer direct flights to the United States. This new direct flight is a major milestone in the bilateral relationship between our two nationsand a win-win for both countries. It is evidence of deepening U.S.-Kenya ties and a clear demonstration of Kenya’s tremendous global growth.

As a hub in East Africa, Kenya accounts for 13.1% of Africa’s international air cargo, and remains a key market for American exports to Africa. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimates that a one percent increase in air cargo connectivity is associated with a 6.3% increase in total exports and imports. By providing speed, reliability, and creating efficiency, direct flights will unlock many more opportunities for growth in trade and services in Kenya and the broader East Africa region.

The U.S. Chamber, in partnership with the Kenya Embassy and the American Chamber of Commerce, is hosting a high-level delegation of government officials for a trilateral dialogue with American companies and government officials from both countries to discuss additional ways to deepen the commercial relationship.

Currently, Kenya is East Africa’s largest, most diverse economy, and that is before the economic gains of the new direct flight to New York. As home of the Silicon Savannah, Kenya boasts a dynamic young population, is a pioneer of innovation and financial inclusion, and is one of the fastest growing economies in Africa.

American companies recognize vast potential in the market, and many companies, including GE and IBM, already have headquarters and research facilities in Nairobi.

In partnership with the American Chamber of Commerce in Kenya, the U.S. Chamber convened a summit in Kenya in June as part of the President’s Advisory Council on Doing Business in Africa (PAC-DBIA). The summit affirmed that the private sector embraces President Kenyatta’s bold and ambitious plan to create an investment-led, growth-oriented economy in which business can thrive by attracting investment in the “Big Four,” job-creating sectors: affordable housing; healthcare; manufacturing; and food security. The summit also helped bring about $100 million in deals signed in June, and more than $850 million in U.S.-Kenya commercial deals and engagements during President Kenyatta’s meeting with President Trump in the U.S. in August.

Building on our U.S.-Africa policy recommendations for the Trump administration, the U.S. Chamber will continue to drive the message that American business is committed to Africa. With the initiation of direct flights, Kenya is now more than ever positioned to be the gateway to East Africa.

Maxwell Okello, Chief Executive Officer of the American Chamber of Commerce in Kenya, “sees the direct flights enhancing opportunities for trade and investment across both nations, and improving the uptake of existing provisions to facilitate the African Growth and Opportunity Act through increased efficiency and convenience in movement of people and cargo."

And it’s not just about Kenya. The entire East Africa region stands to benefit from the catalytic effects of increased connectivity, efficiency, and investment that direct flights bring to the economies of the region.

With Kenya as a foundation, the U.S. Chamber and our U.S.-Africa Business Center will continue advocating for increased trade and investment that is mutually beneficial for the U.S. and Africa by opening and expanding new markets, increasing private sector investment, and creating jobs in the U.S. and on the continent.

About the authors

Brionne Dawson

Brionne Dawson is the former Senior Director, East & Southern Africa of U.S. Africa Business Center at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.