The recently concluded visit by Foreign Minister Wang Yi to Kenya, the first since William Ruto assumed office as the country’s president, provided a good opportunity for China and Kenya to strengthen ties and improve economic cooperation. The visit came as the two countries mark 60 years of diplomatic relations. China is Kenya’s largest trade partner and top investor, and Kenya is the landing point for the Belt and Road Initiative in Africa.
Under the China-proposed initiative, launched in 2013, Kenya and China have worked together to deliver many infrastructure projects, including the Standard Gauge Railway, Nairobi Expressway, Global Trade Centre and the Mombasa oil terminal. These are flagship projects of the Kenya Vision 2030 program and play a pivotal role in anchoring Kenya’s economic transformation.
Wang, who is also director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, is particularly suited to advancing the partnership dialogue between Kenya and China. He brings history, experience and continuity in promoting constructive dialogue that aims for inclusive development and prosperity between the two nations. He also has witnessed the rapid development in relations between China and many African nations.
In 1963, when Kenya gained independence, the country’s per capita GDP was nearly one-and-a-half times that of China. In 1973, the Kenyatta International Convention Centre was the tallest building in both Kenya and China. Yet in just the three decades ending in 2020, China lifted more than 800 million people out of poverty to become the first developing country to eliminate extreme poverty, and did so 10 years ahead of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development target.
China’s development experience has become a magnet around the world. Many societies, including that of Kenya, want similar outcomes marked by effective education, agriculture, healthcare, housing, transportation and industrialization systems, among others.
Under the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, China has extended the proceeds of its development to the continent. China has proposed a number of programs, such as the Global Development Initiative, aimed at catalyzing achievement of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Similarly, the Global Security Initiative is primed to help societies overcome the perils of conflict and transform into economically thriving spaces.
Kenya and China have tremendous opportunities for growth partnerships. Nairobi is among just five African capitals that are currently in comprehensive strategic cooperative partnerships with Beijing. China is home to technologies, experiences and finances that can fuel Kenya’s development, while Nairobi offers Chinese companies investment opportunities to internationalize and reach the rest of Africa. We should see more access of Kenyan products to the Chinese market.
The identified areas of cooperation during talks between Wang and Ruto, such as railways, highways, water conservancy, aviation and renewable energy, complement the government’s development blueprint, and the implementation should be expedited.
Yet such enviable outcomes are possible only when the leadership and the people of both countries can harness the power of cooperation through constructive dialogue, trust and enduring friendship. It is time to make the cooperation live up to its potential.