(Bloomberg) -- The Kenya National Highways Authority signed a $3.6 billion agreement with Everstrong Capital LLC to build an expressway linking the nation’s two largest cities, one of several investment deals expected to be announced during President William Ruto’s US visit.

The toll-road deal involves a 440-kilometer (273-mile) link between the capital, Nairobi, and the port city of Mombasa that serves as a gateway for several East African economies.

The thoroughfare known as Usahihi — which means “correctly” in Swahili — will have four to six lanes and traverse an expansive wildlife reserve. The route has an existing public two-lane road and a railway financed by Chinese lenders.

Ruto is pushing for more private investment in his country as he undertakes the first state visit for an African leader in 16 years to Washington. The US is trying to forge stronger ties with the continent where competitors such as China and Russia have gained influence and overshadowed it in recent years. 

“The construction of the Usahihi expressway poses no financial risks to the Kenyan government, as it is structured to operate independently from the government of Kenya’s balance sheet and is projected to be financing self-sustaining,” according to an emailed statement.

Everstrong Capital plans to reach financial close by the end of the year and begin building the road by March 2025, it said in an emailed response to queries. The Virginia-based fund manager will finance, construct, toll, operate, and maintain the expressway under a 30-year concession, it said.

Kenya is at high risk of debt distress and is turning to privately funded infrastructure projects to reduce debt vulnerabilities.

The nation agreed to a similar project with Bechtel Corp. in 2017, but the San Francisco-based company dropped the $3.5 billion order preferring to be a contractor, rather than building as well as operating it. State-backed Korea Overseas Infrastructure & Urban Development Corp. also carried out feasibility studies for a highway that would have cost about $1.5 billion. 

Other deals announced during Ruto’s tour include a $1 billion data center by Microsoft Corp. and G42, the United Arab Emirates’ top artificial intelligence firm, as well as $175 million for Coca-Cola Co.’s local operations. The US International Development Finance Corp., which loans to private firms rather than governments, is also expected to announce several hundred million dollars in new investments in Kenya, bringing its portfolio in the country to more than $1 billion. 

Ruto will also advocate for the renewal of the African Growth and Opportunity Act, a trade program with about 40 sub-Saharan nations that gives qualifying countries duty-free access to the world’s biggest economy. The current iteration of AGOA is due to expire in 2025.

(Updates with project timelines in sixth paragraph.)

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