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Kenya eyes relations beyond business with China

By EDITH MUTETHYA in Nairobi | China Daily | Updated: 2023-12-19 09:55
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Michael Munyao. CHINA DAILY

The diplomatic relationship between China and Kenya, which dates back to 1963, is poised to grow further despite criticisms from the West, a Kenyan businessman has said.

Michael Munyao, the chief executive of Electrogen Technologies International Ltd, a company specializing in security equipment, said China being a global manufacturing hub, cannot be ignored.

The Kenyan business community has greatly benefited from importing from China, he said, saying that pricing has been an important factor.

He added that most of the manufacturers from China have branches in Kenya hence customers are assured of after-sales service.

He said visits to Chinese factories have given Kenyan businesspeople a chance to learn about the products as well as the manufacturing process.

He, however, expressed the need for Kenyan and Chinese businesspeople and manufacturers to engage beyond the current buy-and-sell relationship. China and Kenya are celebrating the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic relationship, and Munyao believes the business communities between the two countries are moving toward new spheres.

"We need to have a conversation on how we can partner and start manufacturing some products here in Kenya. We have a bigger market and the products can be sold in the East African region," Munyao said.

He said goods take 28 days from China to Kenya and the shipping cost is very expensive; challenges could be solved by manufacturing locally.

Munyao, who is also the chairman of the China-Africa Friendship Association Kenya Chapter, urged Kenya and China to work on improving people-to-people relationships going forward, as well as diversify their cooperation by focusing more on infrastructure development.

He said Kenya offers many investment opportunities in sectors such as housing and agriculture, which are part of Vision 2030, Kenya's economic blueprint, that aims to transform the country into a newly industrialized middle-income country.

He said Chinese investors, for instance, could help Kenya in realizing its housing goals.

According to President William Ruto, the government plans to construct about 250,000 affordable houses annually in the next five years, targeting low-income earners.

The plan, which is expected to be realized through the public-private partnership, will see 6.5 million Kenyans living in informal settlements get decent and affordable houses.

Munyao said agriculture is another area where Kenya should engage Chinese investors to realize food security. This could be realized through new farming technologies, mechanisms and skills from China.

"Chinese can invest in large-scale farming in Kenya and export to other countries. We have land but lack farming technologies," he said.

The agricultural sector is the backbone of Kenya's economy, contributing approximately 33 percent of the country's GDP.

Partnerships needed

Munyao also expressed the need for more partnerships between China and Kenya in education, from offering more scholarships to Kenyan students to study in China to having exchange programs between Kenyan and Chinese universities.

"If we have more young Kenyans going to China to further their studies through scholarships and university partnerships, then they will understand Chinese culture," he said.

"If Chinese students come to study in Kenya through the university partnerships, they will also understand Kenyan culture. Once you understand the culture of people, it becomes easier to do business with them."

Munyao said the China-Africa Friendship Association Kenya Chapter has been committed to enhancing people-to-people exchanges between the two countries over the past 16 years.

"Once you get to know one another, then you know whether you can trust each other, as well as know each other's ability," he said.

He said discussions are also on top gear with various Chinese companies that are interested in setting up industries in Kenya. Three companies are already keen on setting up factories in the country, he said.

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