On the occasion of celebrating the 70th Anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, as Chinese Ambassador to Kenya, I hail the ongoing and robust China-Kenya relations, which mark 56th anniversary of its establishment this year. Just as China has come afar, the partnership between the two peoples has overcome many challenges along the way and is headed to even greater prosperity.
In modern history, both China and Kenya have conquered the past and were subjected to aggression and colonization by western powers. On October 1, 1949, chairman Mao Zedong proclaimed the founding of the People’s Republic of China. During that year, Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya’s founding president, was leading the Mau Mau Movement and the Kenyan people on the road to national sovereignty. In 1963, when Kenya finally gained independence, China and Kenya established diplomatic relations a few days later. In 1978, China adopted the reform and opening-up strategy and signed a trade agreement with Kenya.
Over the past 70 years, China has risen from a struggling agriculture-based economy to the world’s second-largest economy. Trade and economic cooperation between China and Kenya has also reached unprecedented levels.
Since I was accredited to Kenya in March this year, I’ve felt the depth and width of China-Kenya friendship and cooperation. I am touched most by some simple comments, such as “with your projects you’ve never disappointed us”, on a post of the Embassy’s Facebook page, which is about a Chinese company successfully completing the transmission line for the Lake Turkana Wind power plant within a record 6 months, hailed by the Kenya Government as the “Engineering Magic in Kenya’s History”.
I am delighted to hear stories of how Chinese companies actively leveraged their equipment and human resources to help local communities. China WuYi Co. invested over USD 20,000 and 508 hours of labour to build six water ponds to help about 3,000 local residents secure water supply for their household, farming, and animal husbandry uses. China International Water & Electric Corporation built water reservoirs and donated diesel-powered pumps and generators to benefit 1,200 residents in Bubisa.
I am impressed to learn that even Kenyan staff in Chinese Companies are also involved in social responsibility. China Communication Construction Company (CCCC) set up a free medical camp in Suswa, providing basic physical examination and free medication to about 1,000 people of the Maasai communities. Elizabeth, a Maasai employee of the CCCC, served as an interpreter for the camp. From queue management, physical examination, doctor consultation, to distribution of prescription and medicine, Elizabeth and her co-workers were required at every step. Their faces were beaming with joy, as they, the employees of a Chinese company, went back to help their own people.
Indeed, the strong and fruitful China-Kenya partnership is vividly demonstrated by over 100 major projects developed with joint efforts from both countries in the last 56 years. Some of the most outstanding projects over this period include the Moi International Stadium in Nairobi, the Thika Superhighway, the Mombasa to Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) and the Nairobi to Naivasha SGR which will be launched soon.
As of May 31, 2019, the 2nd anniversary of its passenger train, the Mombasa-Nairobi SGR had transported 300 million passengers and 440,000 TEU of cargo and maintained a safe operation record of 731 days. SGR carries with it the century-old dream of the Kenyan people and provides a fast lane to growth and prosperity for the region. As one of the early success stories under the BRI framework, SGR is a clear demonstration of the value generated by China-Africa industrial cooperation.
Cooperation between China and Kenya is not defined by the SGR alone. Major projects invested by the Chinese side include laying of high-speed internet connectivity by Huawei, promoting industrial upgrading, job creation for Kenyans, and contributing to sustainable community livelihoods.
For years, China has been one of Kenya’s top trading partners, and a major source of foreign direct investment. In 2018, China’s non-financial direct investment in Kenya has witnessed double-fold increase to about USD 520 million.
Today, there are more than 400 Chinese businesses operating in Kenya, creating nearly 130,000 jobs for the local people. These companies have played an important role in accelerating advancement of the Big Four Agenda, which is currently Kenya’s development blueprint by President Uhuru Kenyatta.
China is currently helping Kenya to grow her economy through value addition of agricultural products for export. The two sides have recently signed a couple of agreements to give preferential access of Kenya’s agricultural products in the vast Chinese market.
With mutual understanding and support on many international and regional issues, the two countries continue to expand and deepen their all fields cooperation. The China-Africa Joint Research Center and China-Kenya Laboratory for Crop Molecular Biology were established in Kenya. In 2019, over 180 Kenyans were awarded Chinese government-sponsored scholarships to study in China.
It has been seven decades of relentless progress despite trials and tribulations for China. Led by the Communist Party of China, China has cultivated a middle-income population of over 400 million and lifted some 800 million people out of poverty. By the end of 2020, China will have taken all rural residents living below the current poverty line out of poverty, putting an end to absolute poverty in the country and creating a miracle in the human history of development and poverty reduction.
A moving-forward China will continue to boost bilateral exchanges and cooperation at all levels, to go along with Kenya achieving industrialization and modernization, and to bring tangible benefits to the people of both countries while striding towards a shared future.
Ambassador Wu Peng is the Chinese Ambassador to Kenya.