China says it will only follow realistic cooperation with Kenya as a sure way of ensuring both sides improve the lives of their citizens.
The Chinese Ambassador, Ms Sun Baohong, speaking ahead of next month’s China-Africa Summit in Beijing, said China has chosen specific and flexible areas like trade, education and technology because they are common for both Kenya and China to cooperate on.
“China-Kenya pragmatic cooperation has yielded fruitful results,” Ms Sun told a gathering of Kenyan students awarded scholarships to study in China on Wednesday.
“China-Kenya relations are standing at a new starting point with an even brighter future. I believe that with the joint efforts of both sides, we will bring more opportunities to China-Kenya cooperation and yield more fruitful results.”
Ms Sun was speaking to the students, part of a growing Kenyan academic population in China, after Beijing offered higher education opportunities as part of its cultural engagement with Nairobi.
Ahead of the Summit, formally known as the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), Ms Sun said education was only a portion of what China will use to grow its influence in Kenya.
President Kenyatta is expected to travel to China for the talks and Beijing says this will be an opportunity to “exchange views on cooperative development with leaders of China and other African countries.”
The Foreign Affairs Ministry had said the participation of Kenya at FOCAC and the bilateral ties with Beijing reflected “our standing in the community of nations.”
Last year, Kenya and China signed a document to enhance their ties to ‘Strategic Partnership’, which in international parlance may mean relations between the two will now manifest beyond existence of embassies to things like cultural interactions, student exchanges, joint research, favourable trade practices and even political exchanges.
FOCAC, and another programme called the Belt and Road Initiative, are part of President Xi Jinping’s policy of advancement commonly called the XI Jinping Thought. It is a set of 14 points, part of which is to “establish a common destiny between Chinese people and other people around the world with a peaceful international environment.”
Kenya is one of the four African countries that China has identified to pilot its industrial zones projects. The others are Tanzania, Egypt and Ethiopia.
But China has been criticised for its role in leaving African nations indebted. In Kenya, it is the biggest external creditor and is owed Sh534 billion, according to latest National Treasury records.
“The Chinese are building infrastructure and the wisdom is as soon as you have the infrastructure, you have to make it pay for itself. Infrastructure may be a motivator for manufacturing,” observed Prof Peter Kagwanja, CEO of the Africa Policy Institute and who has recently written a book on China in Africa.
In marking 40 years since China started economic reforms, Ms Sun said critics of its lending policy ignore the fact that countries may never develop without financial capital.
“As requested by the Kenyan government, China has provided finance to support Kenya's development projects such as transportation infrastructure, power transmission systems and dams.
“These projects are in line with the development agenda of Kenya, including the Big Four. They are aimed at boosting Kenya's economic development and improving people's livelihood. The interest rate of Chinese loan is comparatively low and the repayment period is considerably long enough.”