BY ERIC NG’ENO
We have proudly welcomed into our country a true friend of Kenya and one of our most important partners in the journey to national economic transformation. Without a doubt, the State visit by the Premier of the People’s Republic of China is a great honour and a strong message as well.
President Kenyatta’s first visit outside Africa after his inauguration was to China on a State visit. During that tour, the Government and people of China spared no expense to make the State delegation feel like truly honoured guests.
Naturally, the proper African would have been itching all along to reciprocate and treat a valued friend to the best hospitality he or she can muster. To use a common expression, it is a great and delightful opportunity for us as Kenya to ‘revenge’ for the splendid reception accorded us in China last year.
This visit is highly symbolic as well. Africa is no longer jostling to be seen, or elbowing for space in the great scheme of international relations. She has been exploited and betrayed countless times in history, in the name of international or bilateral relations, and the particulars of these treacheries are well documented. For this reason, Africa knows who its true friends are. There are many interests angling at the continent which cannot be articulated or pursued outside the master-servant imperial framework. These interests are therefore getting frustrated by dint of sheer historical imperative. Imperialism is obsolete and those yearning to revisit the swamps of subjugation steadily drift into the silence of oblivion.
Africa is rising. This beautifully succinct truism is evident wherever we look in the continent. Africa throbs with the restless energy of a people anticipating a long overdue take-off. We are in an epoch of great reversals globally. In Africa, we are at a place when the validity of our dreams is being vindicated in emphatic terms. Afro-pessimists are having a tough time trying to propagate a message whose script was forgotten in the swamp. Before the rising sun, it is only the fool who continues to grasp at strategies for surviving a false, eternal midnight.
Africa is integrating. Africa is united. Africa’s peoples are now focusing on reaping the collective promise of our motherland, and discarding the shame of history for the call of destiny. The fastest growing economies are African. Many African countries are on the cusp of middle-income status. The greatest potential for rapid industrialisation lies in our continent. The biggest appetite for technology is here. Sophisticated data and clever figures might be needed to drive the point home for some. For everyone else, it suffices to look out of the window and see change happening in real time. Africa is the continent of today and tomorrow
Sicut in Africa et in Kenya: as in Africa, so in Kenya. Kenya is diligently laying down a transformational framework of breathtaking scope and pace. Anyone with the patience to look beyond the undramatic exertions throughout government will be amazed by the cumulative ambition and impact of initiatives currently underway. Pessimists are alarmed. Development is supposed to be an imperceptible, geological affair, they say. Kenyans disagree; we have the window, as a continent and nation to undertake rapid transformation. No generation in history has ever confronted such opportunity. The onus on leadership and government is to make a good fist of it, not to quake and quibble with myriad uncertainties when the imperative is clear. The Jubilee Alliance believes that it can, and will happen.
Last year, the government of China graciously conducted us on a tour of the city of Shenzhen. It is a massive, ultra-modern metropolis humming with the power of enterprise, innovation and industry on a mind-boggling scale. It is the Pioneering Bull of China in every conceivable way, charging relentlessly onwards. But the spectacle of Shenzhen hardly lies in its chic, massive urbanisation or formidable economic muscle. Its story is the real spectacle. In 1978, the Third Plenary of the Eleventh CPC Central Committee inaugurated China’s programme of Reform and Opening-up. In 1979, the late miracle worker Deng Xiaoping mooted his legendary vision to establish special economic zones. Shenzhen at the time was a mountainous fishing village of about 28,000 people.
Deng Xiaoping broke ground for the new city and afterwards, the mountains were literally pulverised to give way to the rise of a city that puts Hong Kong well and truly in the shade. 30 years later, only the artefacts in the city’s museum attest to Shenzhen’s unimpressive origins, and to the clarity of vision and strength of leadership it took to recognise opportunity, blow away every obstacle and drive large scale national transformation within a generation.
Africa needs strong partners to catalyse its transformation. It requires optimists who know that spectacular change can be delivered in a few years of hard work, not censors and critics who wish to patronisingly parcel out development in miserly morsels. There is good reason for this need; Africa cannot accept anymore to discuss the future as a distant notion, when that future is at hand. We want to live in the future. In China, Shenzhen is the future delivered today.
When the Chinese state delegation will be engaging our government, private sector and other stakeholders in our transformative agenda, all sides will have the opportunity to assess what we have, and whether it is ambitious enough. In a new world, a new way of seeing is required. Not too long ago, ambition was viewed with suspicion. Indolence actually passed for prudence then. Not anymore. Today we are evaluated on how ambitious we are.
That is why it is such a pleasure to be able to pen a few words of welcome to His Excellency, Li Keqiang and his entire delegation. We want a friendship born of mutual respect, and an engagement based on shared interests. We want partners who will walk with you on the journey of transformation, and who will endorse programmes for the people that can be described as ‘intensely ambitious’. Because we want to be able, ten years hence, to say that Kenya is the future delivered already.
(The writer in the Director of messaging at the Presidency)