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Kenyan businesses expect boost thanks to China's optimized COVID policy

By Rading Gerro in Nairobi, Kenya | | Updated: 2023-01-20 16:35
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The Kenyan business community has welcomed the optimization of the COVID-19 policy in China that facilitates international travel, anticipating a boost in China-Kenya trade.

China has seen a gradual loosening of the policy in the recent months. Since Jan 8, it no longer requires inbound visitors to quarantine upon arrival, a measure that lasted for nearly three years for COVID-19 prevention and control.

Kennedy Opondo, managing partner of Rizone Ventures Limited which is based in Nairobi and is a firm that deals in supplying building materials across the western part of Kenya, said the latest move will facilitate his business travel to China and support his plan to set up a manufacturing plant in Kenya.

"We will now be able to embark on our quarterly business travels to China to source for building and construction for our local clients. Initially, I relied on online sources for the materials, but it was tiresome," says Kennedy.

Kennedy adds that "Chinese firms have some of the best building techniques and they are affordable. The Chinese business community is also friendly; they not only sell the materials to you but also offer to advise you on how they can partner with you in your country. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, I had plans to set up a local manufacturing plant in Kenya but it never took off, now because the travel is much easier, I think I will revive the idea."

Elayne Wathira, a businesswoman who specializes in household items in Nairobi, said her business was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic over the past three years, and now the facilitated travel to China has provided great relief.

"I was forced to rely on my counterparts in China to ship the goods to me and this created a lot of confusion when it came to packaging and selecting the household items I had ordered online," Wathira said.

She now plans to join other Kenyan business communities in organizing a trip to China, not just to source for products but also to take part in some of the business expos like the famous Canton Fair, one of the biggest business expos hosted in the province of Guangdong.

The Kenya National Chambers of Commerce Industries has also welcomed the latest move by China to ease international travel.

"China is and will remain the biggest trading partner not just to Kenya but the entire African continent. Over the years we have collaborated with Chinese firms to boost our local manufacturing sector," Nairobi Julius Opio, former chairman of the organization, said, adding that this will create business opportunities for Kenya.

He said he hopes the Kenyan government will "create better trading policies that will allow Chinese firms to set base in Kenya and therefore create jobs for the locals."

He also revealed that in the coming months, the chambers' new leadership will be organizing a local business expo in collaboration with Chinese firms operating in Kenya.

Gao Wei, chairman of the Kenya Overseas Chinese Association and China Council for the Promotion of Peaceful National Reunification in Kenya, has also said that the new move is vital in boosting trade between the two countries.

"We expect a huge surge in business trips to China. This will help in boosting technology exchange and also match-making between well-advanced Chinese firms with local enterprises," said Gao.

With cooperation from China, the African infrastructural sector has seen a tremendous growth, from new ports to standard gauge railway lines and also great investment within the tertiary education as well as the health research sector, he said.

"I believe, as an association representing the Chinese people in Kenya, we will keep boosting our relations in Kenya for the betterment of both sides."

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