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Together for better or for worse

By Otiato Opali in Nairobi, Kenya | | Updated: 2020-11-25 15:16
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In 2007, the Kenya-China Economic and Trade Association or KCETA, with the financial support of the Chinese embassy in Kenya, established the MCEDO Beijing School in the Mathare slums of the capital Nairobi. This marked the proverbial first step in the thousand mile journey of cooperation between Chinese businesses in Kenya and the local community.

The cooperation has been growing steadily through better times and KCETA has been making regular visits and donations to the primary school that mostly educates orphans. In 2012 for instance, KCETA and its member companies raised $54,000 for the phase-two expansion project of the school in light of the insufficient facilities and outdated equipment.

As a result of this cooperation, both Kenyans and Chinese businessmen have developed mutual understanding through the years. Once the pandemic struck, the collaborative spirit between Kenyans and Chinese businesses operating within the country was set into motion.

With schools closed due to COVID-19 restrictions introduced by the government in March, KCETA directed its attention to helping the Kenyan government and local businesses in mitigating the negative effects of the virus. According to Guo Ce, the economic and commercial minister counsellor at the Chinese embassy in Kenya at that time, coronavirus is the enemy of the world and China is proud help more countries to fight against it.

"The pandemic was first reported in Kenya in March, and KCETA was among the first organization to donate medical supplies to the Kenya Airports Authority including masks, gloves, sanitizers and other personal protective equipment," Guo said.

Noting that health workers were the front-line warriors in the fight against the pandemic, KCETA made a further donation of protective equipment worth $10,000 to Kenya's ministry of health. Though the MCEDO Beijing School was closed due to the pandemic, Guo says that they still donated food to the school because most of the students at the institution are orphans and still depended on the school for meals.

"After learning the school had to suspend classes due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the international free lunch program could not be implemented normally, students faced a serious food shortage. KCETA extended its helping hand to more than 500 teachers and students at the school in April," Guo said.

"KCETA donated food including sugar, edible oil, wheat flour, corn flour and soap required by local people in daily life. At the same time, Keda Ceramics, a member company of KCETA, donated disinfectant wipes and washing powder to teachers and students," he added.

However, after Kenyan schools were partially opened in early November, KCETA once again swung into action and donated a batch of food materials to the MCEDO Beijing School on the Nov 19. The organization purchased and donated 1,000 kilograms of cornmeal, 500 kilograms of sugar and 500 kilograms of edible oil.

Benedict Kiage, the principal and director of MCEDO Beijing School, said that Mathare being a slum area, many of their students have been adversely affected by the pandemic. Kiage thanked KCETA for their steadfast support for the institution especially during these tough times.

"Our school caters to students beyond education. The school offers a feeding program and the KCETA donations have been instrumental in keeping the program running through the pandemic," Kiage said.

"The government has announced that all students will report back to school on Jan 4 next year and that is why the latest donation is very timely. Since we depend on well-wishers, our resources have been depleted because the economic hardships have affected everyone but we thank KCETA for this donation because it will enable us have a smooth reopening of the school," he added.

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