Chinese Ambassador to Kenya Dr. Liu Xianfa's article on China-Kenya win-win ties published on The Standard newspaper and Capital FM website

The following article written by H.E. Dr. Liu Xianfa, Chinese Ambassador to Kenya, was published respectively on The Standard newspaper and Caiptal FM website on 7th June 2015.


Rich history and shared interests define China, Kenya win-win ties

By H.E. Dr. Liu Xianfa, Chinese Ambassador to Kenya


China and Kenya share a rich history. While Kenya is considered the cradle for mankind, China is one of the four great ancient civilizations. Fossils of the Turkana Boy hominid and the four great inventions – papermaking, gunpowder, printing and compass –point to these similarities in history.

Chinese and the Kenyans are diligent and that explains why both countries are the leading economies in their respective regions.

Both countries have demonstrated their innovative capacity. A Kenyan innovation, M-Pesa, for example, has heralded a revolution in mobile phone money transfer and micro-financing service since its inception in 2007. In China, WeChat, a social network platform, has become very popular across and beyond the country.

The Chinese and Kenyan people have enjoyed a long-standing friendship. More than 600 years ago a Chinese navigator, Zheng He, visited the east coast of Kenya four times during his seven voyages to the western oceans. In his visits he brought not only silk, porcelains and tea, but also friendship. A tribal chief in Malindi presented Zheng He with a giraffe, which he took back to China, and the giraffe is regarded as Kylin, a mythical creature symbolizing auspiciousness and great wealth.

In modern times, the two nations, both victims of external aggression or colonization, supported each other in the fight for independence. After independence, both countries were faced with the great task of nation building, greatly impeded by a lack of infrastructure where an industrial foundation was absent.

But after 30 years of hard work from 1949 to 1979, China developed an industrial base and an economy driven by technological innovation and a skilled work force.

From the moment China opened its door to the outside world three decades ago, it has sought to build production capacity, a capital base and acquire technology from developed countries and the four Asian Tigers. This has greatly facilitated China's economic take-off.

Today, China has entered a more mature stage of industrialization with competitive industries and surplus capacity. China is the world's largest producer of over 220 categories of industrial products, including steel, cement and automobiles. China produces 38 per cent of the world's machine tools, 41 per cent of ships, and 60 per cent of power generation equipment.

Correspondingly, Kenya's multinational investments such as Kenya Commercial Bank, Safaricom, Nakumatt and Kenya Airways, are examples of the country's success and influence. As President Uhuru Kenyatta stated in his speech during the Madaraka Day celebrations, Kenyans will overcome social and economic challenges and grow. We are confident that, guided by Vision 2030, Kenya is on the right path towards industrialization and modernization. With China's help, Kenya's dream can be achieved much sooner.

Similar experiences and characteristics make it possible for the two countries to compare notes. Already China and Kenya have achieved remarkable results in bilateral cooperation. In 2014, Chinese companies undertook $3.47 billion worth of infrastructure projects in Kenya, an increase of 67.7 per cent over the previous year. China has become Kenya's largest source of financing, its largest construction project contractor and second-largest trade partner.

I am delighted to see that changes are taking place where there is Chinese-built infrastructure. As an example, the Thika Super highway in Nairobi, which was built by China Wu Yi Company, we have seen many jobs created amid a real estate boom. More changes are taking place across the country, top on the list being the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway project being undertaken by China Road and Bridge Corporation.

In Mtito Andei, a town halfway along the railway line, I witnessed first-hand the positive change taking place. While a large number of jobs are being created to build the railway, the project has also created a boom for the local catering industry, with many restaurants mushrooming. The crime rate there has fallen drastically. Before the project started, there were only 4,000 people living in the town, but today, only a few months later, the population has expanded to about 15,000.

In the National Youth Service headquarters, I saw Chinese engineers working closely with the NYS personnel to maintain heavy machinery.

The rail project also creates a perfect environment for transfer of technologies and skills. In the town of Emali, for example, I saw Chinese technicians working closely with their Kenyan colleagues to build sleepers and T-shape girders. Those workers, mostly from the local Maasai and Kamba communities, had no prior experience of operating the machinery. I believe these technicians and workers will pass on the skills they have acquired to an even larger group.

Other projects undertaken by Chinese companies have improved the living standards of Kenyan communities. Some of these projects include the Olkaria geothermal power wells, the new Unit 4 Passenger Terminal at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and Berth No 19 at the port of Mombasa. Local people have benefited from on-site technical training offered by Chinese companies.

I am also delighted to see that Sino-Africa Joint Research Centre has broken ground at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, and the construction of China-Kenya Joint Laboratory for Crop Molecular Biology has also started. This industrial transfer and cooperation will benefit both countries.

Kenya has a stable political environment, a great geographical advantage, sound legal system, free and open financial system, and an abundant and high-quality human resource. It also has more than 20 years of experience in developing export processing zones and industrial parks. All of these make Kenya a preferred destination for Chinese businesses.

Creation of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to attract investments is a major strength for the Chinese. Thirty years ago, SEZs were established in coastal cities of Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Shantou and Xiamen to become the pilot cities that were open to overseas investors.

I am optimistic that Kenyans will create a new economic miracle in Africa. This will generate greater opportunities for China and Kenya to work together more closely for mutual benefit.

We will not pursue development based on the rapacious colonial way of "taking without giving". We will stick to the principles proposed by President Xi Jinping based on the mutual interest of the two nations. We will take into account the practical needs of Kenya, align the development strategies of both sides and promote industrial cooperation in a pragmatic and effective way. Our aim is to maximize win-win results.


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