Kenyans should not fear relations with China

[Photo: Courtesy]
Some in the international community do not like a rising power. We have seen it throughout history that those who see themselves as leading the current world order do not like threats to their power or position.

We saw it in the last century particularly acutely here in Africa when the colonial powers started wilting and their grip on years of raping foreign countries’ resources and virtually enslaving their populations was being lifted.

They want status quo

We were sold all sorts of stories that even though the rulers were not great, what could come after could be even worse for the people. Scare stories and conspiracies were spread to try and ensure that the status quo was maintained.

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We saw during the Cold War how each of the super-powers spread lies and disinformation about the other to create spheres of influence and would pit African against African and nation against nation in some older version of the ‘Game of Thrones’.

Today, China is the butt of all manner of conspiracy stories and threats by those who fear its rise because of their own interests.

Of course, nothing is free in this world and China does not act completely magnanimously and altruistically but understanding these simple facts can create interesting opportunities.

If handled correctly, the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative could transform Africa’s economy, and those who go in with open eyes and a clear mind can certainly take advantage of this global game-changer.

Thinking different

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This initiative is especially of interest for we must think regionally through cross- border infrastructure projects.

Since President Uhuru Kenyatta came into office he has put so much effort in making Kenya the epicenter of the second wave of Pan-African movement on the continent. That could be out of the believe that development and progress cannot take place in a vacuum and has to include our neighbours.

Already,  construction work is ongoing to take the SGR to Naivasha onwards to Kisumu and into the East African hinterland, a move that will open up the region and boost trade between Kenya and its neighbours.

That is why the partnership with China on the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) and several key roads that have greatly improved the transport network, are a key ingredient for growing industries and creating jobs.

Boost for Big 4

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Also set to get a lift is President Kenyatta legacy projects that fall under the Big 4 Agenda; food security, manufacturing, universal healthcare and affordable housing as China powers on with its Belt and Road Initiative.

President Kenyatta is off to China to attend the International Second Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in Beijing following the signing of three agreements and two Memorandum of Understanding worth $300 million.

The BRI is one of the most ambitious infrastructure projects ever conceived. It brings back memories of the original Silk Road, which connected Europe to Asia and parts of Africa centuries ago, enriching traders along the way.

These agreements and Memorandum of Understandings are specifically aimed at supporting Education, Science, Technology and Innovations that is focused on training and research to benefit Kenyan institutions, and students.
These sorts of deals should not be taken for granted. To date, more than 60 countries — accounting for two-thirds of the world’s population—have signed on to the Belt and Road Initiative.

Morgan Stanley- an American bank-  has predicted the BRI costs could reach $1.2–1.3 trillion by 2027.

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Being an access point for the BRI on the African continent, the trickledown effect on the Kenyan economy will be massive.

Millennia ago, the Silk Road was formed that had enormous benefits, not just for the Chinese who created it, but for the development of civilisations along the route, including areas in what is now known as the Horn of Africa.

China has proved a reliable development for African countries in need of progress, not least because development and aid does not come with the fraught demands previously made by Western governments.

China is more open about its interests and meets its African counterparts- and others in the developing world- midway.
This should not be ignored or underestimated when weighing global partnerships.

As such, Kenya should ensure that it fully understands the implications of greater engagement with China, taking advantage of opportunities while maintaining the interests of the country.

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