Guangzhou, the Chinese city of flowers and global commercial appeal leaves lasting impression on visiting Kenyan entrepreneurs

Public Bus Transport in Guangzhou

China’s third city, Guangzhou is a scintillating metropolis of 18 million people whose attractions include the presence of humanity from all over the world. 37 Kenyan business people, customers of the Co-operative Bank recently joined that medley that includes large numbers of black Africans to sample among other things, Chinese infrastructural and commercial prowess.

The bank’s director of retail and business Mr Arthur Muchangi who led the group of investors drawn from various sectors said exchange visits between Kenyan and Chinese entrepreneurs would boost trade between the two nations. He said Kenya needed cheap industrial products from China as much as the latter needed coffee, tea, flowers and other agricultural produce on offer for the export market.

Kenya’s Deputy Head of mission at the embassy in Beijing Mr Edward Kimani who welcomed the Kenyans on behalf of Ambassador Michael Kinyanjui said Guangzhou was poised to host a Kenyan consulate alongside China’s financial capital, Shanghai.

Mr Kimani advocated for joint ventures with Chinese industrialists to create products with the tag ‘made in Kenya’.

“It would be better to have Chinese products made in Kenya as that reduces cost and helps create the much sought after employment,” said Mr Kimani.

The maiden trip was facilitated by FCM travel solutions whose Managing Director Mr Hamisi Hassan urged other institutions to emulate the bank in organizing exposure trips for their clientele.

Pearl Riover scene in Guangzhou

Kenyans whose itinerary included a two day visit to the annual Canton fair  (China Import and Export fair) that twice a year attracts over 24,000 of China’s best foreign trade companies relished attractions of the city traversed by the  expansive Pearl River

Oh, how we wished Nairobi would be nearly as clean and orderly with flowery scenes at every turn! We learnt that Guangzhou’s is also known as Huacheng, Cantonese for ‘City of Flowers’.

Those visiting for the first time saw the mega city’s innumerous shopping centres and markets specializing in almost everything made in China and elsewhere that attract buyers from all over the world. The Canton fair is a reflection of that specialization.

The Pearl River (Zhujiang in Cantonese) that snakes through the city en route to the South China Sea was a shocker by its sheer size, with a width rivalling the tip of Winam Gulf at Kisumu.

The river is alive with fish and other marine creatures as opposed to the lifeless, smelly sewerage that is the Nairobi River. Many in our midst could not help asking our Chinese hosts how they had managed to keep the river alive to which they answered “patriotism, discipline and determination”. Attractive bridges span across the river, enhancing the city’s beauty. Those who know Kisumu  could not help thinking of how attractive the lake side city it would be with such bridges.

Besides roads running parallel to it, the Pearl River in Guangzhou has well paved path ways on its banks for leisure walkers. Tourist class cruise ferries fitted with comfy hotel facilities accessible at a fee shuttle up and down its course, packed to the brim with local and foreign tourists. Again, Kisumu comes to mind and the kind of revenue the County Government or other entrepreneurs with creative minds would rake in by introducing such facilities in a water hyacinth free Winam Gulf.

Kenyans, especially those who hail from Nairobi were staggered by the fact that Guangzhou has no eye sore scenes of rotting garbage, dirty street urchins, begging street families, marauding hawkers and heaving crowds so common in their capital and other cities courtesy of poor leadership. Streets are scrubbed clean with soapy  water. It left us debating the  worth  of spending tax payers’ money on  Governors, chief officers and members of County Assemblies (MCAs) notorious for gobbling public funds with little  or nothing to show for it.

We were staggered by the efficiency of public transport devoid of noise pollution and rowdy touts yelling themselves hoarse for passengers. It reminded older folks in our midst of Kenya Bus of yesteryears that ran on schedule with well-defined routes and conspicuously displayed destinations, albeit in form more advanced in Guangzhou.  Remarkably, the buses are huge machines with some running on electricity to reduce pollution. Personal cars are few.

Canton Tower at night

Hardly does one see crowds, a phenomenon attributable partly to the absence of idlers and largely an underground metro system that absorbs most of the commuters to and from work. The trains boarded at underground railway stations are electric powered, making our diesel driven standard gauge gamble look like a study from the archives. They run at incredible speeds up to 350 kilometres per hour.

A tour of Guangzhou City is incomplete without a visit to the Canton Tower, a Coca Cola soda bottle shaped architectural wonder that at a height of 601 metres (1,969 feet) literally scrapes the clouds, making its tip the most vantage point for a bird’s eye view of the city. Complete with a Television mask that is the highest in China, Canton Tower is reputed to be the world’s highest observation deck and a wonder in its own right. The majestic tower designed on a shapely lady’s waist resembles a resplendent dress ablaze with colourful lights at night.

Ironically, Canton Tower has only 37 floors compared to 111 at the 530 metre  (1,739 feet) high Guangzhou CTF Finance Centre, the 103 floors at the 439 metre (1,140feet) Guangzhou International Finance Centre, the 80 floors at the 391 metre (1,283 feet) CITIC Plaza and the 71 floors at the 310 metre (1,016 feet) at the Pearl River Plaza to cite but a few.

Compare those to Nairobi’s tallest buildings currently topped by Upper Hill’s Britam Tower, 200 metres (660 feet), Old Mutual Tower, 163 metres (535 feet) and Times Tower, 140 metres (460 feet). The iconic Kenyatta International Conference Centre (KICC) stands 105 metres (344 feet) high.

While Nairobi’s history dates back 112 years  to 1896, Guangzhou was founded in 214 BC (Before Christ), well over 2,200 years ago.