President Mwai Kibaki with Prime Minister Raila Odinga during a press conference in Nairobi.
Kenya-China ties strengthened on the road to 'Vision 2030'
The jewel in Africa's crown, Kenya is one of the continent's most beautiful countries and the region's leading trade, finance and investment hub.
The ambitious nation is currently striving to achieve the many socioeconomic goals set out in its groundbreaking Vision 2030 development plan, with government and trade officials actively pursuing foreign investors and offering them a range of financial incentives.
Strategically positioned on the continent's east coast and with a liberalized and diversified market economy, Kenya has for many centuries been an important trade route between Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, and is one of sub-Saharan Africa's five largest economies.
From this July, the country of 39 million people will benefit from the East African Community (EAC) common market protocol in a move expected to bring a wave of new investments. This breakthrough is sure to be embraced by Kenyans who are entrepreneurial, well educated, and multi-lingual.
Further afield, Kenya enjoys excellent connectivity to major hubs around the world, with its bustling capital, Nairobi, East Africa's transport hub, and the shipping city of Mombasa home to the region's most important deep-water port.
Famous for its magnificent landscapes and precious wildlife that roam the savannahs, Kenya has successfully combined its wealth of natural resources with a modern approach to business and commerce.
This positive and progressive attitude has been encouraged by Kenya's leader. Since coming to power in 2002, President Mwai Kibaki has overseen solid and consistent growth in an economy that displays impressive strength in a range of industries and areas, in particular in the agriculture, manufacturing, and service sectors.
This enviable reputation has been bolstered by the investment-friendly nation's excellent bilateral relations with global economic powerhouses such as the People's Republic of China. Through high-level exchange visits, discussions, and negotiations, the two countries enjoy stable and reciprocal cooperation in a broad range of fields. They first established diplomatic ties in 1963 and now enjoy impressive annual bilateral trade of around $1 billion.
Trade and political issues will be on the agenda when President Kibaki visits Beijing in early May. The trip is expected to lay the foundations for fresh Chinese investment in Kenya as the pair look to expand their cooperation in areas such as agriculture and infrastructure.
Closer cooperation with China and other major industrialized countries is one of the aims of Kenya's Vision 2030 long-term development project, which covers three pillars: economic, social and political.
The economic pillar aims to improve prosperity levels to an annual average GDP growth rate of 10 percent per year by 2012 that will be sustained until 2030.
In order to achieve the flagship projects in the six economic sectors covered by the economic pillar, the government and private sector are investing a staggering $6.5 billion through a combination of joint ventures and Public Private Partnerships (PPPs).
The social pillar seeks to build a fair and cohesive society with social equity in a clean and secure environment, while the political pillar will strengthen the nation's democratic system, and focus on issue-based politics that respect the rule of law and protect the rights and freedoms of all citizens.
"Kenya Vision 2030 is a vehicle for accelerating the transformation of our country into a rapidly industrializing middle-income nation by the year 2030," said President Kibaki. "The journey to 2030 will require sacrifice, hard work, self-discipline, and determination. I am confident that Kenyans will meet these challenges in order to make our country globally competitive and prosperous, where every person will enjoy a high quality of life.
"Vision 2030 will be implemented through five year, medium-term rolling plans, starting with the first one covering the period up to 2012. Thus, the performance of the government should in future be gauged on the basis of these medium-term benchmarks."
Spearheading governmental efforts as Kenya looks to achieve its Vision 2030 targets is Prime Minister, Raila Odinga. He believes Kenya needs to continue to diversify its fully liberalized economy and start adding value to the many goods produced there.
"We must move away from overdependence on one commodity and focus on processing," he said. "In addition, we are looking forward to making Kenya the regional information and communications technology (ICT) hub for the region and have rolled out a fiber optic network across the country.
"We see Nairobi as a major transport hub, so Jomo Kenyatta International Airport is being expanded as we look to transform the facility into a major transit point for the East African region."
With infrastructure projects planned throughout Kenya, Prime Minister Odinga regards China as an important development partner as the two nations look to benefit from the many foreign direct investment (FDI) opportunities in Kenya and build on previous cooperation in trade, education, health, energy, transport, and agriculture.
"We are investing heavily in infrastructure as it is a clear way of creating employment for Kenyans and opening the country up to investment," he said.
Revealing some of the factors behind the success of Sino-Kenya relations and why Kenya is so keen to partner with the Asian giant, Prime Minister Odinga said:
"Kenya wants to move on quickly. Chinese companies are easy to deal with and they do not take a long time to process things.
"Over the years, the Chinese government has made available to us funds for many important projects. As we are keen to exploit our raw materials such as coal, iron ore and oil, there is a lot of scope for cooperation with China."
Highlighting political and social stability as one of Kenya's best assets, Prime Minister Odinga said the government is fully committed to creating good governance structures and a conducive environment for PPPs and joint ventures.
"I want to reassure investors - local and foreign - that Kenya welcomes them and is a safe place for their investments. The government will do everything necessary to ensure they reap maximum returns from their investments - Kenya is an ideal destination for investments, trade and tourism.
Prime Minister Odinga believes Chinese investors have a lot to gain from focusing on Kenya, while his country has much to gain from the transfer of skills, knowledge, experience, and technology.
"China is a large country with industrious people. I would like to encourage Chinese investors to invest in Kenya but not just export finished products, as we need to create employment opportunities for our citizens," he said.
"Kenya is the hub to East and Central Africa; it allows investors to access a market that has 200 million people."
With such strong links to Asia's economic heavyweight, Kenya is well placed to cash in on China's growing presence on the world stage, both in trade and political terms.
Chinese President Hu Jintao has repeatedly expressed his satisfaction with Kenya and recently proposed that the two countries enhance this relationship through the sharing and exchange of innovative ideas and valuable skills.
So, as a new decade begins, one of the world's most promising nations is modernizing its economic, political, and social landscape, and moving forward at speed towards its proud portfolio of dynamic and rewarding Vision 2030 development goals.
(China Daily 05/03/2010 page17)