China supports Kenya in sustainable development

A group of experts, politicians, university scholars and the media toured the Standard Gauge Railway Nairobi terminus on a visit organized by the Chinese embassy to Kenya, Oct 30, 2018. [Photo by Liu Hongjie/]


China's presence in Kenya has become second nature to the latter's citizens. Indeed, although China established itself as a development partner about two decades ago, its impact across Kenya's social and economic sectors has been far reaching.


On Oct 30 this year, the Chinese Embassy in Nairobi held a tour for experts, politicians, university scholars and the media on two key initiatives the country has undertaken. Specifically, the guests toured the Standard Gauge Railway station, and the AVIC Technical and Vocational Training Program based at the Kenya Technical Trainers College. Both are in Nairobi, the capital city.


The twin visit took place against the backdrop of the forthcoming China International Import Expo, which will be held in China's Shanghai from Nov 5 to 10.


Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta will lead a top Kenyan delegation to this event, and is expected to sign a couple of crucial trade deals with the host, including agreements on fresh produce and trade tariffs.


The Nairobi tour was an eye-opener, and a rare privilege to get into the inner sanctums of Chinese influence, not just in Kenya, but in Africa as a whole. Those who have interacted directly with these two initiatives as beneficiaries also have first-hand experience of the futuristic outcomes of China's infrastructural investments.


Since its launch one year ago by President Kenyatta, the Standard Gauge Railway has ferried over 2 million passengers, and moved a similar amount in tons of freight between Nairobi and the coastal city of Mombasa. This is an unprecedented development and has created massive economic benefits for both the country and its people.


Indeed, the Standard Gauge Railway has ushered in a new era in Kenya's thinking and way of doing business. The efficiency is just mind-boggling to travelers. The rail journey that used to take about 12 hours now takes half that time, including stopovers at various stations along the line.


The establishment of the AVIC program is crucial in Kenya's current strategy of promoting the uptake of technical and vocational education and training. AVIC aims at helping the Kenyan government build a modern vocational skill training system anchored on TVET.


The model of excellence at Kenya Technical Trainers College is working towards providing state-of-the-art turnkey solutions and systems for sectors in engineering, science and technology, training and industrial environments.


The task involves providing professional skills training in mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, automotive maintenance, mechatronics technology, welding, refrigeration, agricultural value addition, hospitality management, civil engineering and agricultural machinery at 134 colleges and universities across Kenya.


AVIC training is opening doors for an increasing number of young high school graduates by giving them an invaluable opportunity to acquire invaluable practical skills for employment. It is hoped that this initiative will meet the demands of the labor market in the industrial sector, helping Kenya achieve her economic and social development goals as contained in Vision 2030, the country's economic blueprint.


Lately, Kenya has developed the Big Four Agenda in the medium term, with transforming manufacturing forming the backbone of the country's social and economic development.


Still, there are areas of improvement. The main one has to do with cultural differences, both customary and corporate. Kenyans feel that China should reach out more to the ordinary citizen, who is susceptible to propaganda that aims at painting the two countries partnership negatively.


One person's actions cannot be generalized as the defining character of a people. The Chinese feel that the misdemeanors of a few individuals from their country should simply be taken as the rotten apple that soils the others' reputation.


There also is the issue of a widening balance of trade between the two countries. To be fair to China's efforts, it is Kenya that really needs to step up. For instance, Kenya's response to the CIIE needs more effort. Currently, only nine companies are exhibiting at the Expo, mainly in food and agriculture, financial services, tourism, medical equipment and health care.


Kenya's private sector must be more aggressive in tapping not just into the Chinese market, but other lucrative markets globally. The country must leverage her pole geopolitical pole position in the region to create more demand for goods and services.


But for Kenya to take big steps economically and attract more Chinese investors, the government must take serious measures in improving the investment climate and introduce advanced technology and concrete measures to improve her investment climate.


The writer is a university scholar, and public policy analyst based in Nairobi, Kenya.


(China Daily,By Stephen Ndegwa)

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