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Kenya says close ties with China yield many positive outcomes

By EDITH MUTETHYA in Nairobi, Kenya | China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-12-14 10:14
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Musalia Mudavadi

As Kenya celebrates 60 years since gaining independence, and Nairobi marks 60 years of diplomatic relations with Beijing, the East African country is enjoying advanced ties with China, which has significantly contributed to its economic development.

Kenyan Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi, who is also the nation's cabinet secretary for foreign and diaspora affairs, said on Monday in an interview with Chinese media based in Kenya that the two countries have enjoyed the highest level of engagement over the past 60 years.

He said the Kenya-China relationship is anchored on the head of state, noting that former presidents Mwai Kibaki and Uhuru Kenyatta, as well as current President William Ruto, have had very close ties with China.

Mudavadi applauded the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative for enabling Kenya to address its infrastructure challenges, noting that the country takes pride in the Nairobi-Thika Superhighway, a project initiated during Kibaki's term.

The 50-kilometer highway, which links the capital of Nairobi and Thika, a commerce hub, was a major project developed through the China-Kenya partnership, followed by the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway, a key BRI project, as well as several bypasses, the Nairobi Expressway and many other projects within and outside Nairobi.

Mudavadi said the good partnership with China on infrastructure development was the key motivation for Ruto to attend the third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing in October, during which he discussed further collaboration through the initiative with President Xi Jinping and others.

"We still have to do a lot on the infrastructure. There are a number of projects that have to be completed. (President Ruto) focused on this when he visited China, and we look forward to a fruitful conclusion so that we can see the benefits of the partnership," Mudavadi said.

He said the government also wishes to extend the standard gauge railway to Malaba, which is on Kenya's western border with Uganda.

In July, Kenya signed an agreement with Uganda to extend the rail line to Uganda's capital of Kampala and beyond, so that cargo can be transported seamlessly from the Kenyan port of Mombasa to Uganda and other landlocked countries.

Mudavadi said the standard gauge railway has tremendously improved cargo transportation from Mombasa to the interior. It has also helped the country to maintain the road between Nairobi and Mombasa, which was a challenge when the heavy cargo was previously shipped on the road.

Furthermore, he said, "a number of areas that were not easily accessible in the past have now become accessible through (the railway). A number of economic centers and hubs have also evolved around the railway."

Mudavadi expressed gratitude that Chinese companies are interested in investing in the nation's geothermal development and green energy transition, which will greatly help in transforming trains from diesel to electric power, thereby improving their speed and protecting the environment.

He said China has been very pragmatic in development, with rapid execution of projects. "On the incubation period between discussion and project implementation, China has proved to be very effective in reducing that time," he said.

Many Chinese companies have invested in the country, with the most visible result being the Global Trade Centre, a 41-story, 300,000-square-meter office tower in the heart of Nairobi that offers space for retail, hospitality, luxury hotel and community purposes, Mudavadi said.

"That is a sign of confidence in the partnership between the two countries. We look forward to having more Chinese investors coming here and making this their launchpad for other investments, not just in Kenya but also in the region," he said.

Mudavadi said Kenya offers a lot of investment opportunities in agriculture, the housing sector, sports facilities, healthcare, renewable energy, climate change mitigation, and communication and information technology.

He said the nation plans to add 100,000 km of fiber-optic cable to improve connectivity, and he assured Chinese investors that Kenya has robust capital markets and is strict on the rule of law, so a system is available for arbitrating any matter.

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