MWANGI: Envoys should keep off Kenya’s growing links with China - Daily Nation

EU and American envoys should keep off Kenya’s growing links with China

Thursday April 26 2012


In the recent past, ambassadors from countries in the European Union especially Germany and France have been complaining over their lack of access to President Kibaki, and also the growing influence of China in Kenya and Africa at large. Also unhappy is the US envoy.

Some of these countries colonised Africa and largely benefited immensely from the continent’s natural and human resources during the pre-colonial and post-independence periods.

They are, therefore, not comfortable with the growing independence of many modern African governments.

Worse, they are facing great economic challenges. Some are even broke and thus unhappy with the gravitation of African governments towards the Far East, especially China.

Today, the influence of the Chinese Government can be felt in almost all parts of Kenya through robust infrastructure construction, and both direct and indirect trade with China.

According to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, Sino-African trade reached $126.9 billion in 2010, while the trade volume between China and Africa rose by 30 per cent year-on-year during the first three-quarter of 2011.

China’s top five trading partners in Africa are Angola, South Africa, Sudan, Nigeria and Egypt.

In contrast, the trade volume between Africa and EU countries has significantly dropped, which is one of the reasons why diplomats are unhappy with the Kibaki administration.

Their accrediting states lack vital consumers of their expensive and inefficient products, which has caused a shrinkage of profits in their home factories.

In a way, these diplomats are under pressure from their metropolitan states to restore the lost glory of cosy African relations as the Chinese have clearly found favour with the Kibaki administration.

The US is also unhappy with the economic resurgence of China, especially about the benefits accrued from the Sino-Africa trade.

China’s growing economic strength has come with a growing geopolitical influence in Africa and the world at large, and even ordinary American folks are unhappy with the reality.

In a recent poll by the US-based Gallup Research Company, ordinary American and opinion leaders say a strong relationship between China and the US is a good thing, but a majority of both groups also say China’s growing influence in the world is bad for the US.

The Kenyan education sector has felt this influence as institutions such as the University of Nairobi are offering studies in Chinese, and has, in fact, opened a Confucius Centre to facilitate this.

The traditional craving by Kenyans to study French and German is declining.

These EU countries have not addressed the reasons why African countries are continually leaning to the East.

Many of them have erected unnecessary trade barriers, which inhibits any substantial partnerships.

Others like the US have preferred to pump money into workshops and conferences in the name of democratisation at the expense of development.

Worse, some of these projects like the 3.5 billion dollar “Yes Youth Can” has been riddled with lack of transparency and accountability and thus does not serve any interest to jobless Kenyan youths.

In addition, much of the grants to many civil society groups end up in the pockets of a few individuals.

For relations between Kenya and Britain to be smooth, Britons must stop showing open hostility towards some Kenyans and favouring a particular political class.

Their act of funding the Kenyan case in the International Criminal Court to the tune of 20 million pounds rather than the general court itself portrays a vested and parochial interest. They must remain neutral in the Kenyan political process.

Nevertheless, though the Sino-Africa relations benefit Africa, China’s non-interference policy should not be absolute.

The reluctance by the Chinese to insist on good governance among its African trading partners has sometimes supported dictatorial regimes in Africa.

But all in all, China’s influence on the continent is growing and nothing will stop it as long as the West uses double standards on Africa.

Mr Mwangi is a lawyer and graduate finalist in Public International Law ([email protected])