Top officials of the Chinese and Kenyan government used the fifth meeting of African and Chinese leaders in Beijing, to audit what each has gained from the relationship between the two countries. The audit revealed a smiling China and a not-so-sad Kenya.
China’s Vice President Xi Jinping told Prime Minister Raila Odinga that Kenya held a “special place” in the heart of the Chinese government.
The Chinese VP said China had noticed the trade disparity between Kenya and China and was working on ways to remove tariffs on some Kenyan goods so that it is easy for them to reach the Chinese market.
“Cooperation must flow both ways. We do not wish to engage in cooperation that only benefits us while hurting others,” Mr Xi told Mr Odinga in Beijing Thursday.
China knew the disparity would raise qualms with the Kenyan leaders.
Mr Xi, the Vice President, added: “As we continue to develop, we will remain sensitive to the needs of other developing countries so that they can also develop with us. We cannot repeat the mistakes that those who have developed ahead of us have made.”
On his part, Mr Odinga urged China to keep pumping more money into the Kenyan economy as foreign direct investments, and to even have Kenya Airways and China Airlines make direct trips between Nairobi and the Chinese cities of Beijing and Shanghai. That would be a boost to trade and tourism.
Mr Han Chunlin, the Economic and Commercial Counsellor at the Chinese Embassy in Nairobi, had the figures. They show that while the Chinese exports to Kenya were at Sh201 billion (USD2.4 billion), Kenya had only exported goods and services worth Sh5.5 billion (USD64.9 million) to China.
In effect, when it comes to trade, China had benefited 36 times more than Kenya from the “mutual relations”.
The figures on the China-Kenya relations were bound to be skewed in the favour of the Chinese because of the disparity in development levels, the growth rate and the population.
China needs a market for its goods and its people to help manage its 1.34 billion people, according to the Chinese scholars from the China Institute of International Studies, who spoke to the Nation.
“According to Vision 2030 formulated by the Kenyan government, tourism, manufacturing, clean energy, agriculture, construction, ICT and financial services are all the key development sectors. We would like to share our experience and enhance our cooperation in these areas,” Mr Han added in his brief on China-Kenya relations seen by the Nation.
China built the Moi International Sports Centre and they recently concluded the facelift of the stadium. They also worked on the road from the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, via Uhuru highway to Gigiri. They also paid for part of Thika-Nairobi highway, while their companies handled the construction of the whole road.
The Chinese also have their fingerprints on the Gambogi-Serem road in Vihiga and Kisumu Counties, JK.I.A-Uhuru Highway-Gigiri (UNEP) Roads.
Nairobi Eastern and Northern Bypass, Nairobi Southern Bypass, Kenya Power Distribution Upgrading and Strengthening Project, Kenya E-government Project, Technical Industrial Vocational Entrepreneurship Training Project, Olkaria Geothermal Field Production Well Drilling and Kenyatta University Teaching and Referral Hospital are also the work of the Chinese.
“China has agreed to provide Kenya with 490 sets of small scale solar energy equipment, construct the Irati Small Hydropower Station and the Chemoisit Small Hydropower Station; and drill seven boreholes in the Eastern and Rift Valley Province,” said Mr Han. “The use of new energy is a key development strategy pursued by Kenya to drive the other major sectors of the economy.”