Try China economic model in ‘Big Four’

Wednesday March 18 2020

African Heads of States and Governments pose during the African Union (AU) Summit for the agreement to establish the African Continental Free Trade Area in Kigali, Rwanda, on March 21, 2018. PHOTO | STR | AFP


The Big Four Agenda is meant to pave the way for Kenya’s achievement of high middle-income status envisioned in Vision 2030.

The transition will require increased productivity of human capital and natural resources and would trigger income per capita from Sh166,300 to Sh400,000, according to the World Bank atlas estimates.

In the past four decades, only 13 countries have grown at above seven per cent annually, causing their incomes per capita to skyrocket to upper middle- and higher-income economic status. One of these is China, which has transformed its economy to upper middle-income.

In 1980, Kenya’s gross domestic product (GDP) per capita was Sh45,157 and China’s Sh19,695. Today, China’s nominal gross domestic product (nGDP) per capita is about Sh1,142,411 and its GDP in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms (equalised dollar unit cost of a basket of goods per country) is about $1,761,036.

China is the richest world economy by PPP terms, followed by the nGDP leader United States.


China is a world-leading newly industrialised economy, exporting and investing abroad more than any other country, with Sh263 trillion in exports last year.

Its green economy model is the heart of the International Horticulture Expo 2019 in Beijing themed “Live Green, Live Better”.

China is also the greatest influencer in the construction industry, absorbing its construction material exports tactfully and easily increasing foreign exchange incomes.

While pundits would argue that China is not a comparator economy to Kenya due to its political and economic system, an optimal blend of planned and open market economics, there are many lessons we can draw from it to leapfrog to higher middle-income economic status.

The Big Four focus on manufacturing, value addition and food security is aimed at increasing return ventures, the fastest way to grow the economy.


The deficient nGDP per capita for Kenya to reach the upper middle-income is about $2,337 higher than our current levels, which calls for increased productivity in the priority value chains.

Many Kenyan companies are scaling up their presence in the continent to take advantage of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA).

Kenya was the first to ratify ACFTA, which has in under a year achieved 22 benchmark countries, making it one of the biggest and most profitable markets.

With the Companies Act 2015 easing entry into investments and availability of incentives such as export processing and special economic zones, Kenya is a leading attraction of high-end investments and technological transfers.

Also, the drive to revitalise the co-operative movement and micro, small and medium enterprises will lead to a saving and entrepreneurial nation.

A revitalisation of key intellectual property rights (IPR) institutions to global stature is on course to ensure Kenya’s property rights are monitored, defended and safeguarded.


In recent times, Kenya’s “Hakuna matata” and “Safari” for promotion of tourism trade have been infringed, leading to potential loss of forex and the country’s global image.

Increased savings and forex, one of China’s biggest objectives, can make Kenya a lender. The Chinese export-import (Exim) bank, in addition to provision of incentive guarantee schemes, helps companies, in part, to access Chinese technologies and invest in profitable ventures.

Biashara Bank can take the form of an Exim bank in Africa. Local manufacturing success — a leading exporter and investor of textile, edible oils, dairy, emerging motor vehicle parts sector and jua kali artisans — will increase returns ventures.

China merged several domestic airlines to establish the China Southern Airline to create the “Big Three”, alongside Air China and China Eastern Airlines. China is also advanced in shipbuilding.


With an emerging investment in Kenyan restaurants that is marketing the country through popular Kenyan cuisines, as well as tourist attractions such as the ‘Big Five’, the same can be achieved with a vibrant national carrier, Kenya Airways. Other local airlines should also be developed and cargo section advanced.

Kenya is a leader in experts and professionals in the diaspora, offering various services.

To expand science and technology, Kenya should increase enrolment of its students in Chinese science and technology universities.

Chinese provinces, led by their governors, have led buyer-seller delegations to Kenya to request for our participation in their trade and investment forums that showcase their technologies, goods and services — which the counties should emulate.

Mr Biwott is the CEO, Export Promotion Council. [email protected]