When Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi jointly addressed the media on January 6, it was clear that the two countries had decided to preserve the results of their close cooperation on a series bilateral and multilateral issues.
Kenyatta described China as a true friend who has come to the aid of Kenya to implement large-scale development projects without conditions or conferences.
Wang dismissed the narrative by some that China is burdening African countries with unsustainable debt, saying the only trap African countries face is one of underdevelopment marked by conflict and poverty. China has shown an unwavering will to help Africa overcome its development challenges, a fact that will show up over time, he said.
Kenyatta’s sentiments regarding Kenya’s development cooperation with China are finding increasing resonance in other African countries, such as Nigeria, Rwanda and South Africa, where leaders have championed truthfulness and the usefulness of partnerships with Beijing.
The Kenyan leader mentioned a litany of development projects that have been carried out in partnership with China, including the new offshore oil terminal at Kipevu, worth $352 million. The facility, which is the most advanced in Africa, will be key to 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 implement large-scale infrastructure projects in short timeframes and on competitive bids, has enabled companies to become most responsive to President Kenyatta’s socio-economic transformation agenda for 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, demonstrating the importance it attaches to its partnership with the African people.
During his visit to Kenya, Wang and Raychelle Omamo, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs, witnessed the signing of six agreements aimed at fostering economic ties between the two countries in areas such as digital economy, investment, agriculture and export of Kenyan agricultural products. 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 major imports being electrical and mechanical machinery, nuclear reactors and boilers. Promoting 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.
Regarding the global fight against COVID-19, Wang announced that China is donating 10 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to Kenya. This is a major boost for Kenya’s efforts to inoculate enough people to transition to herd immunity. As of January 12, only 4.58 million Kenyans have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, according to the country’s health ministry. At the same time, Kenya, like many other African countries, is seeing an increase in infections caused by more transmissible variants of the virus, such as Omicron.
China’s vaccine donation is a continuation of the anti-pandemic support Beijing has provided to Kenya and other African countries since the start of the global health crisis.
In a show of solidarity with Kenya in the fight against COVID-19 and its impacts and the ongoing drought in the country, China will also donate 12,000 tons of rice for the benefit of affected households.
The results of Wang’s visit to Kenya make Nairobi one of the first beneficiaries of the nine-point cooperation framework announced by President Xi Jinping at the eighth ministerial conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Senegal in late November.
At the conference, China pledged to provide Africa with 1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines, set up poverty alleviation centers on the continent and promote the export of African agricultural products to China. Other key deliverables over the next three years will include partnerships with industrialization and the private sector, digital economy projects, climate action initiatives, cultural exchange programs and peace and security.
The author is a specialist in international relations with a focus on China-Africa cooperation.