When President Uhuru Kenyatta and the visiting Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi jointly addressed the press on January 6, it was clear that the two countries had resolved to jealously guard the outcomes of their deepening cooperation across a range of bilateral and multilateral issues.
President Kenyatta characterised China as a true friend who came to the aid of Kenya to implement wide-ranging development projects without conditionalities or lectures.
Wang Yi, on the other hand, castigated the narrative that China was saddling African countries with unsustainable debt; arguing instead, that the only trap facing African countries was that of underdevelopment marked by conflict and poverty.
China had demonstrated unyielding willingness to assist Africa overcome its development challenges, a fact that will eventually manifest in the fullness of time, the envoy said.
President Kenyatta’s sentiments about Kenya’s development cooperation with China are increasingly echoed in other African countries such as Nigeria, Rwanda and South Africa where leaders have come out to defend the veracity and utility of partnerships with Beijing. Kenya is among five African countries that currently maintain a comprehensive strategic and cooperative partnership with China.
The Kenyan leader mentioned a litany of development projects that have been actualized in partnership with China including the newly built Sh40 billion offshore Kipevu Oil Terminal. The facility, which is the most advanced in Africa, will be critical in enhancing supply and cost stability of petroleum products in Kenya and the region, according to President Kenyatta.
As Kenya’s biggest development projects financier and contractor, the ability of Chinese firms to implement large scale infrastructure projects within short timelines and on cost competitive bids has seen the companies emerge as most responsive to President Kenyatta’s socio-economic transformation agenda for Kenya.
Minister Wang Yi was in Kenya as part of the tradition stretching back to 1991 in which Chinese foreign ministers made the first overseas trip of the year to Africa. Even in the backdrop of the Covid-19 global pandemic, China has fulfilled its pledge to visit the continent; in a strong show of importance it attaches to its partnership with the African people.
During his visit to Kenya, the Chinese top diplomat and his Kenyan counterpart Ambassador Raychelle Omamo witnessed the signing of six agreements aimed at fostering economic ties between the two countries spanning digital economy, investment, agriculture, and the export of Kenyan agricultural products to China.
While trade between Kenya and China has been growing in the last two decades, Kenya has been a net importer from China with key imports of electrical and mechanical machineries, nuclear reactors and boilers. Promotion of industrial investments and expansion of export products to China will not only create the much needed jobs in Kenya but also reduce the trade deficit between the two countries.
In the global fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, Minister Wang Yi announced that China is donating ten million doses of Covid-19 vaccines to Kenya. This is a major boost for Kenya’s efforts to inoculate enough people towards herd immunity from the disease.
As of January 12, 2022, only 4.58 million Kenyans have been fully vaccinated against coronavirus, according to the country’s Ministry of Health. At the same time, Kenya, like many other African countries, is experiencing a surge in infections driven by more transmissible variants of the virus such as Omicron and Delta.
China’s vaccine donation is a continuation of pandemic support Beijing has extended to Kenya and other African countries since the onset of the global health crisis.
In a show of solidarity with Kenya over the impacts of Covid-19 pandemic and the ongoing drought in the country, China will also donate 12,000 tonnes of rice to benefit affected households.
The outcome of Mr Wang’s visit to Kenya makes Nairobi an early beneficiary of the nine-point cooperative framework announced by Chinese leader Xi Jinping during the 8th ministerial conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Senegal at the end of November 2021.
China had committed to: supply Africa with one billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines; operationalize poverty reduction centres in the continent and open green lanes to promote export of African agricultural products to China.
Other key deliverables in the next three years include industrialization and private sector partnerships; ten digital economy projects; ten climate action initiatives; cultural exchange programmes as well as ten peace and security projects.
The writer is a scholar of international relations with a focus on China-Africa cooperation. Twitter: @Cavinceworld.