Chinese-built infrastructure projects reshaping Kenya's transformation agenda

Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the Belt and Road Forum (BRF) for International Cooperation in Beijing, capital of China, May 14, 2017. (Xinhua/Ma Zhancheng)
China has overtaken external lenders to become largest financier of infrastructure projects that have positioned Kenya as an unrivalled transport and logistics hub in the region.

Modern infrastructure projects like roads, ports and railways that are either financed or built by China have injected vitality into the country's transformation agenda, senior officials and experts said.

Philip Mainga, acting managing director of Kenya Railways Corporation said that China's immense contribution to expansion and upgrading of transport infrastructure in Kenya has unleashed benefits to the economy and citizens.

"There is no doubt the infrastructure projects financed and developed by China are making huge impact in the country especially when you look at the ease of travel and employment opportunities," Mainga told Xinhua earlier this week.

SEE ALSO :Railway firm evaded Sh800m tax, court told

He singled out phase one of the standard gauge railway (SGR) project that was launched on May 31, 2017 for ensuring there is seamless movement of people and cargo between the port city of Mombasa and the capital, Nairobi.

"The SGR phase one also created so many jobs and new opportunities for local entrepreneurs who supplied construction materials like cement, steel and sand," said Mainga.

He said that phase 2A of SGR whose implementation has entered the final stretch will stimulate commerce and investments in the Kenyan hinterland.

The Africa Construction Trends launched by consultancy firm, Deloitte in December 2018 indicated that Kenya had the highest number of infrastructure projects financed by China across the eastern African region.

Maxwell Mengich, general manager for infrastructure development at Kenya Railways Corporation said that Chinese-built modern roads and railways have benefited local entrepreneurs besides enhancing linkages with regional trading partners.

SEE ALSO :Graft purge strikes closest to Raila

"Kenya has benefited from infrastructure projects built by the Chinese and they range from job creation, faster movement of people and goods," said Mengich.

"The future prosperity of this country is dependent on interconnectivity and China is helping us achieve that goal," he added.

Kenyan investors hailed Chinese-built infrastructure projects saying they have stimulated economic growth and boosted the country's attractiveness as an investment destination.

"These infrastructure projects have changed the image of our country for the better and we are witnessing an improved investor confidence thanks to ease of travel," said Kamau Njuguna, a member of East African Chamber of Commerce.

Njuguna said that completion of phase 2A of SGR project that will link Nairobi to the resort town of Naivasha, will have positive impact on horticulture and tourism.

SEE ALSO :300 tycoons probed over Sh10b land grab

"The railway line will cut down on cost of travel from Nairobi to Naivasha and the benefits will be felt by horticulture farmers as well as local and foreign tourists," he told Xinhua.

A train is seen at Mombasa Terminus of Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway in Kenya on June 1, 2017. (Xinhua/Pan Siwei)
Kenyan youth have acquired skills and gainful employment thanks to Chinese-funded infrastructure projects like the Standard Gauge Railway that is a critical component of the Belt and Road Initiative.

Boniface Musimba, a technician at phase 2A of SGR said that knowledge and skills transfer has become a defining feature of China-built infrastructure projects.

"The positive impacts of infrastructure projects financed by China include employment creation, transfer of skills and knowledge that will benefit us in the long-term," said Musimba.

Local communities too have gained from modern infrastructure projects financed by China thanks to reduced cost of travel and opening up of the hinterland.

John Mwathi, community leader based from a village near Naivasha town said phase 2A of the SGR project has transformed rural livelihoods through growth of small businesses.

"The value of our ancestral land has gone up since the construction of phase 2A of SGR phase began. Our youth have benefited from jobs and the contractor has assisted us to construct new classrooms and water pans," said Mwathi.

Participants gesture before start of the Standard Chartered Belt and Road Relay in Nairobi, capital of Kenya, April 1, 2019. Standard Chartered Bank Kenya on Monday launched the Kenya leg of the lender's Belt and Road relay, a global running event that will cover 44 markets around the world. (Xinhua/Charles Onyango)
China pillaging Africa's resources pure myth

People in Chad, an oil-rich African country, used to rely on importing gasolines to power their cars. It has all changed after China's funding and know-how arrived in 2007.

The Ndjamena refinery, a China-Chad joint venture, sits about 40 minutes’ drive north of the African country's capital Ndjamena. Its one-million-ton output may not be very impressive, yet, the Chadians are now self-sufficient in petroleum products.

The refinery is just one of the many examples of China's mutually beneficial energy cooperation with many African countries.

However, it seems that some Western skeptics have chosen to ignore the win-win nature of China-Africa cooperation in natural resources such as oil. In their descriptions, China sees the world's second largest continent as nothing more than a land of abundant resources ripe for pillaging.

Such accusations have cast aside the most basic facts that Beijing has always treated its African partners with respect and equality, and that China's investment flowing into Africa has always sought to bring benefits to both sides.

Historically speaking, China has never been a colonizer. And it never intends to be one.

China's Africa policy differs greatly from that of the Western colonizers who started to divide and rule the continent for dominance and resources since the Age of Discovery.

During the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) summit held in Beijing last September, some African leaders came forward and refuted those irresponsible accusations.

Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat said the eight initiatives that Chinese President Xi Jinping announced at the forum's opening session are "concrete proof of China's support to Africa."

Rwandan President Paul Kagame rejected misinterpretations of China-Africa ties, saying that "Africa is not a zero-sum game and our growing ties with China do not come at anyone's expense. Indeed the gains are enjoyed by everyone who does business on our continent."

Also, China's investment in Africa is not concentrated on natural resources. In fact, the service sector is a major investment focus.

Senior researcher at the U.S. think tank Brookings Institution David Dollar said in a 2015 paper "Why is China investing in Africa? Evidence from the enterprise level" that Chinese companies in Africa "have relatively little investment in natural resources" compared with other developed economies.

A report by the World Bank in 2016 found that China's services investment in Africa accounting for about 60 percent of the country's total investments in the continent.

More importantly, while some Western media spread resource-snatching rumors, China continues its down-to-earth approach in Africa, just like what it has done in Chad's oil industry.

According to a report by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, after the implementation of the 10 major plans for China-Africa cooperation between China and Africa, projects that Chinese enterprises have built in Africa will result in roughly 30,000 km of highways, 85 million tons per year of port throughput and over 9 million tons per day of clean water treatment, in addition to creating nearly 900,000 jobs for Africans.

Furthermore, China has been Africa's largest trading partner for nine consecutive years. In 2017, China-Africa trade volume reached 170 billion U.S. dollars, a year-on-year increase of 14 percent, accounting for about 25 percent of Africa's global trade.

African people believe that China's contributions to their economic and social development are enormous, according to Afrobarometer, a pan-African research organization. They also ranked China as providing the best model for development.

Several decades after African countries like Chad gained their independence from Western colonialists, they still need fuel for development, and China is there trying to help. If those Western doubters also want to be helpful, they need to offer solutions, not lies. 

We are undertaking a survey to help us improve our content for you. This will only take 1 minute of your time, please give us your feedback by clicking HERE. All responses will be confidential.

Kenya Railways CorporationSGRChinaLoan