Opportunities for Kenya enterprises in China's Belt and Road initiative

By Edward Kamau Macharia | Published Thu, August 10th 2017 at 04:20, Updated August 10th 2017 at 04:24 GMT +3

Jean Lu, StanChart's Corporate and Institutional Banking Managing Director for China (R)

Standard Chartered has taken an active role in the China Belt and Road (B&R) initiative through which China hopes to create a seamless trade route connecting countries in Africa, Asia and Europe through railway, road and maritime networks including Kenya’s Standard Gauge Railway.

StanChart is among the banks that are looking to grow business by financing trade on the route.

Jean Lu, StanChart’s Corporate and Institutional Banking Managing Director for China was in the country during Jack Ma’s visit and responded to questions on the initiative by China, the bank’s role and opportunities for African and Kenyan enterprises as well as the potential for the initiative to widen the already huge trade imbalance.

What role is StanChart playing in the Belt and Road initiative?

In the Africa–China corridor, Standard Chartered plays a key role of facilitating two-way trade and investment by providing financial service and products to support clients from China and Africa.                                                                                            

Standard Chartered has also set up a China-African Corridor team. At present, to better service the 70 plus Chinese enterprises, we have setup a Chinese relationship manager (residing in Africa) for every client. Note also, Standard Chartered has a strong research team in Africa that enables us the ability to provide a thorough market insight report, to assist customers in the African market in taking strategic decisions.

What initiatives has the Bank put in place to support the Belt and Road initiative, especially among its operations in Africa, particularly Kenya?

The B&R initiative is bringing about growth opportunities for Africa and Kenya. These are also opportunities for our clients and for the bank. As a bank, we already have set up China desks (experienced Chinese speaking bankers) in many of the key belt and road countries, including Uganda, South Africa and Ghana.
China surpassed the US as Africa’s largest trade partner in 2009. In Kenya, the trade amount reached to $5.68 billion  (Sh570 billion)in 2016. In Q1 2017, import from China is $10.9 billion (Sh1.01 trillion with year-on-year growth of 74 per cent, which significantly enhanced China’s position as Kenya’s largest source of imports.
In what sectors do you expect the B&R initiative to have a major impact on and how are you handling this as a bank? Infrastructure and public private partnerships across different sectors will grow substantially.
The Bank has more than 70 experienced project and export finance professionals globally — with industry expertise in power, utilities and renewable energy;  Infrastructure and Private Public Partnership; transportation; oil and gas and others.
We have the network, expertise, dedicated team and proven track record to support our clients to take advantage of the benefits presented by the China-led Belt & Road initiative.

How can enterprises from Africa and Kenya, and economies, gain from the initiative especially the Africa-China corridor?

The Africa - China economic cooperation is booming in terms of trade, investment, infrastructure and even cultural exchange. This is especially so since the inception of China Belt and Road Initiative in late 2013. The Africa – China corridor had brought more infrastructure capacity, Chinese FDI, reforming experience and even some high technology resources from China to Africa. And more China enterprises (both state owned and private) have come to Africa, and among the impacts this has had include improving capacity of the local people and providing more talent for local enterprises. All of these have provided enterprises from Africa and Kenya great opportunities.

There have been concerns that the initiative might trade  imbalance that already exists between China and Africa (including Kenya), is this true from where you stand?


 China’s enterprises have brought more infrastructure capacity, Chinese FDI, reforming experience and even some high technology resources from China to Africa and Kenya. And as more China enterprises (both state owned and private) have come to Africa, they provide training to the local people and as a result help build capacity for local enterprises. All of these have provided enterprises from Africa and Kenya great opportunities.