This year, 150 excellent Kenyan young men and women have won Chinese scholarship programmes. These scholarships go a long way in deepening the strong bonds of friendship and long-standing trade ties.
The Chinese government has been offering scholarships to Kenya annually since 1982, with the quota doubling in 2011. More than 1,400 Kenyans are studying in China. So far, the Chinese government has provided about 1,000 scholarships to Kenyans.
This year, we are giving 128 scholarships of different types to young Kenyan students and more education and training opportunities are being provided by various ministries in China.
Chinese firms in Kenya are also transferring valuable skills to residents.
For example, more than 45,000 local staff received professional skill training through the standard gauge railway (SGR) project. Seven young Kenyan women are drivers of the SGR trains after completing a railway course in China sponsored by a Chinese company.
China has become one of the most favoured destinations for Kenyans pursuing higher education and professional skills. Kenyans who get an opportunity to study in China will get to know about the Chinese language and culture, make Chinese friends and, of course, at the same time be messengers and ambassadors of Kenya.
China’s President Xi Jinping once said: “When the youth rises, the country rises; when the youth is strong, then the country is strong.”
Young people are the future of a country and also the future of our friendship. Mutual cultural and people-to-people exchanges have also scaled new heights over the recent past.
During President Uhuru Kenyatta’s visit to China in May, an agreement to set up a Chinese cultural centre in Kenya was signed by the two governments.
This is a major achievement for the China-Kenya cultural cooperation.
Now, four Confucius Institutes, one Confucius Classroom and three new Chinese Corners have been set up in Kenya and cultural and language exchanges between China and Kenya enhanced.
The exchange programmes will, certainly, further cement the bilateral ties through understanding and appreciation of each other’s culture.
It is worth noting that these ties did not begin yesterday. The China-Kenya friendship has a long history.
China is one of the earliest countries to establish diplomatic relations with Kenya, immediately after the latter attained Independence in 1963.
However, it is in the recent years that the relations have witnessed rapid development. Mutual political trust has also flourished and the prospects look even brighter.
When President Xi and President Kenyatta met in Beijing during the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, the two leaders reached new important consensus on further exchanges and cooperation in many fields. And, thanks to our expanding bonds, the bilateral relations have been upgraded to a comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership.
The mutual and pragmatic cooperation has enabled China and Kenya to achieve new breakthroughs. Chinese investments in Kenya and China-Kenya trade have expanded so quickly that China has become Kenya’s largest trading partner, investor and contractor.
On June 1, the Mombasa-Nairobi SGR—the flagship cooperation project of the two countries—opened for traffic.
It operates smoothly and safely and 190,000 tickets have been sold so far.
These relations are underpinned by a similar history. Like Kenya, China is has a long history and is an important birthplace of human civilisation. Chinese civilisation has traversed over 5,000 years with broad background and profound connotation.
On the economic realm, there is a lot that Nairobi can learn from Beijing. China boasts a dynamic and fast-growing economy. Over the past 30 years, the average annual growth rate of the Chinese economy was nearly 10 per cent, making it the second-largest from 2010.
China is also the largest trading nation in goods and holder of the biggest foreign exchange reserves. China contributes between a quarter and a third to global economic development, making it the number one engine of growth.
Beijing is the home of the most advanced high-speed train in the world and has a thriving e-commerce—as exemplified by Alipay, an online shopping platform.
Mr Liu is China’s Ambassador to Kenya. [email protected]