Kenyan-Chinese relations gain new impetus from visit – world

State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi (right) and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta visit the China-built Kipevu Oil Terminal offshore project in the coastal city of Mombasa, capital of Kenya, Jan. 6, 2022. [Photo/Xinhua]

When Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi addressed the media together on Jan. 6, it was clear that the two countries had decided to protect the results of their deeper cooperation on a range of bilateral and multilateral issues.

Kenyatta characterized China as a true friend who would come to Kenya’s aid to implement far-reaching development projects without strings attached or preaching.

Wang dismissed the narrative of some that China is burdening African countries with unsustainable debt, arguing that the only trap African countries face is that of underdevelopment riddled with conflict and poverty. China has shown its unyielding willingness to help Africa meet its development challenges, a fact that will eventually manifest itself over time, he said.

Kenyatta’s views on Kenya’s development cooperation with China are increasingly being mirrored in other African countries such as Nigeria, Rwanda and South Africa, where political leaders have defended the rightness and usefulness of partnerships with Beijing.

The Kenyan leader mentioned a litany of development projects implemented in partnership with China, including the newly built US$352 million offshore oil terminal at Kipevu. The facility, which is the most advanced in Africa, will be instrumental in improving the supply and cost stability of petroleum products in Kenya and the region, he said.

The ability of Chinese companies – which are Kenya’s largest financiers and contractors for development projects – to deliver large infrastructure projects on tight deadlines and at competitive prices has made the companies best respond to President Kenyatta’s socio-economic transformation agenda in Kenya.

Foreign Minister Wang was in Kenya as part of a tradition dating back to 1991, when Chinese foreign ministers made their first overseas trip of the year to Africa. Even amid the COVID-19 pandemic, China has kept its promise to visit the continent, clearly showing the importance it attaches to its partnership with the African people.

During their visit to Kenya, Wang and Raychelle Omamo, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs, witnessed the signing of six agreements aimed at improving economic ties between the two countries in areas such as the digital economy, investment, agriculture and Kenyan agricultural exports promote products to China.

While trade between Kenya and China has increased over the past two decades, Kenya has been a net importer from China, with the main imports being electrical and mechanical machinery, nuclear reactors and boilers. Boosting industrial investment and expanding export products to China will not only create much-needed jobs in Kenya, but also reduce the trade deficit between the two countries.

Referring to the global fight against COVID-19, Wang announced that China is donating 10 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to Kenya. This is a big boost to Kenya’s efforts to vaccinate enough people to achieve herd immunity. As of January 12, only 4.58 million Kenyans had been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, according to the country’s Health Ministry. At the same time, like many other African countries, Kenya is experiencing a surge in infections caused by more easily transmissible variants of the virus, such as Omicron.

China’s vaccine donation is a follow-up to the anti-pandemic support Beijing has given to Kenya and other African countries since the global health crisis began.

China will also donate 12,000 tons of rice to benefit affected households as a show of solidarity with Kenya in fighting COVID-19 and its effects and the ongoing drought in the country.

The results of Wang’s visit to Kenya make Nairobi an early beneficiary of the nine-point cooperation framework announced by President Xi Jinping in late November during the eighth ministerial conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Senegal.

During the conference, China pledged to provide Africa with 1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines, set up poverty alleviation centers on the continent and boost African agricultural products exports to China. Other key deliverables over the next three years include industrialization and private sector partnerships, digital economy projects, climate change initiatives, cultural exchange programs, and peace and security projects.

The author is an international relations scholar specializing in Sino-African cooperation.

About Christine Geisler

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