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Dynamic Kenyan market attracts Chinese investors, says diplomat

By MOSES MICHIRA | July 29th 2013
President Uhuru Kenyatta and the Chinese Ambassador to Kenya, Liu Guangyuan early this month.  [Photo: Courtesy]

Spokesman of the Chinese Embassy in Kenya Wu Shifan spoke to The Standard’s reporter MOSES MICHIRA on bilateral relations. Here are excerpts of the interview.

QUESTION:  How would you describe the relationship between Kenya and China? What is the future of China-Kenya relations?

ANSWER: China and Kenya enjoy a profound traditional friendship. Fifty years ago, China became one of the first countries to establish diplomatic ties with Kenya. Since then, China-Kenya relations have come a long way and enjoyed perpetual renewal, bringing tangible benefits to the two countries and peoples.

Thanks to the joint efforts, China and Kenya have further increased political exchanges and enhanced political mutual trust. The two sides have given each other understanding and support on major issues of respective concerns. The cooperation in the economic, trade and other fields continues to deepen.

China-Kenya trade volumes have increased at an annual growth rate of over 30 per cent in recent years. The cultural and people-to-people exchanges are flourishing, as the two countries have increasingly frequent cultural, educational, youth, tourist and non-governmental interactions.

The all-round and wide-ranging bilateral cooperation between the two countries has become a role model for South-South cooperation.

Based on equality, mutual respect, mutual benefits and common development, China-Kenya relations enjoy huge potential and broad prospects. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Kenya. I wish to tell my dear Kenyan friends that the Chinese people are now committed to realising the Chinese dream of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.

Meanwhile, the African people are striving for the African dream of self-development through unity and growth. I believe that the Kenyan people also have the Kenyan dream guided by Vision 2030 to transform Kenya into a newly industrialised middle-income country where all Kenyans live in happiness and harmony.

I am confident tshat with the joint efforts of the two sides, the friendly relations and cooperation between China and Kenya will be elevated to a new high and we will finally achieve our respective dreams.

Q. For how long has China engaged Kenya in trade? What are some of the key sectors of Chinese-Kenya trade relations?

A. Trade relations between China and Kenya can be dated back to the 15th century, around 600 years ago. During China’s Ming Dynasty (1368-1644AD), one of the greatest navigators, Mr Zheng, commanded the biggest fleet in the world and visited the Kenyan coast, which opened the era for the friendship and economic and trade exchanges between China and Kenya.

The recent years have witnessed the sustainable development of the bilateral trade relations between China and Kenya. According to China’s Customs, in 2012, China-Kenya trade volume increased to US$2.84 billion, 20.7 times that in 2000. China’s major exporting products include machinery, electronics, vehicles and parts, furniture, iron or steel articles, footwear, plastics, tyres and much more, and major importing products from Kenya are iron and manganese ore and slag, copper, raw hides and skins, vegetable textile fibre, plastics, coffee, tea and more.

Q. Recently, there has been an increase in the number of Chinese investors in Kenya. What could be some of the factors attracting these huge investments?

 A. With the strategic location, stable political system, comparatively developed social and physical infrastructure, well-educated and skilled work force, as well as the ever improving legal and regulatory systems, Kenya keeps cementing its status of having the biggest economy in East Africa. The dynamic Kenyan market and the cordial bilateral relations between our two countries attract more Chinese investors to come to Kenya to explore the business opportunities.

Q. Are there any strategies being put in place by the Chinese government to maintain momentum in the collaborations and even attract more investors?

A. China has made investments in different areas, such as motorcycle and car manufacturing, energy development, building materials, real estate and tourism. China’s cumulative direct investment in Kenya has reached $470 million, which has made China one of the largest sources of foreign direct investment in Kenya.

 As the most important dialogue and exchange between China and African countries, at the Fifth FOCAC Ministerial Conference held in Beijing from July 19 to 20, 2012, the Chinese government announced that US$20 billion and other encouraging measures would be provided to strengthen the bilateral investment and financial cooperation, especially in the areas of infrastructure, agriculture, manufacture and SME development. Kenya will benefit a lot from this strategy.

Q. Any control measures being put in place by the Chinese government to enhance quality and ensure that Chinese goods and services hitting the Kenyan market are not contrabands?

 A. China has established a legal system and the law enforcement and supervisory mechanisms to enhance the quality and safety requirements of export products and has adopted a wide range of internationally recognised norms and practices, and formed a complete trade control system covering sensitive items and technologies. We adopt a zero-tolerance attitude towards the manufacturing and selling of counterfeit and sub-standard products and thus launched a special campaign to crack down on counterfeit and sub-standard products. I hope that the Customs, quality control department, trade dealers and consumers can make a concerted effort to crack down on sub-standard products.

Q. Kindly highlight some of the key sectors in Kenya that the Chinese government plans to venture into to strengthen business ties?

 A. According to Vision 2030 formulated by the Kenyan government, tourism, manufacturing, clean energy, agriculture, construction, ICT and financial services have been identified as the key development sectors. We would like to share our experience and enhance our cooperation in these areas.

Q. Kenya recently ushered in a new devolved government structure following the March 4 General Election. What is the Chinese government doing to tap into the devolved structure and are there lessons Kenyans can learn from China regarding the management of your semi-autonomous and autonomous regions?

 A. The Chinese government rejoices at the achievements made by the Kenyan government in devolution, and is ready to carry out full cooperation with both the central government and the 47 county governments. China will continue to strengthen friendly relations and cooperation with Kenya’s central government.

To be specific, the Chinese government will maintain high-level exchanges and step up coordination and cooperation on major international and regional issues of mutual interest with the Kenyan central government. Besides, China will enhance mutual economic cooperation and trade with Kenya to realise mutual benefits and win-win progress.

Meanwhile, China is devoted to promoting local government exchanges between the two sides, and is willing to make contributions to the economic and social development of Kenyan counties. The Chinese government will encourage more Chinese companies to expand investments in the counties and push Chinese provinces and cities to establish sister-city relations with their Kenyan counterparts.

 China practices ethnic regional autonomy in autonomous regions, and grants extensive power of autonomy to autonomous regions. The ethnic regional autonomy has played a positive and significant role in safeguarding China’s national unity, guaranteeing the equal rights enjoyed by different ethnic groups and promoting economic and social development of autonomous regions.

Since the implementation of ethnic regional autonomy, the autonomous regions in China have made tremendous achievements in a wide range of areas, demonstrating the unique advantage and remarkable vitality of China’s ethnic regional autonomy system. China is willing to exchange experiences with Kenya in this regard.

Q. The Chinese government has invested heavily in the education sector in Kenya, notably by setting up Confucius Institutes both at Nairobi and Kenyatta universities. Chinese is the language of instruction at these institutes. What do we hope to achieve by teaching Chinese to Kenyans?

A. I am glad to tell you that the third Confucius Institute in Kenya has recently been set up at Egerton University in collaboration with Nanjing Agricultural University. This is the first and only overseas Confucius Institute focusing on Agriculture. Of course, Chinese language will be taught here as well.

Language is a strong tool to not only communicate thoughts and ideas but also forge friendships and cultural ties. Over the years, in their attempts to eliminate the language barrier between our two peoples, the Confucius Institutes in Kenya have trained many Kenyans proficient in Chinese and contributed a lot to Kenya’s social and economic development.

Besides, many Kenyans are now studying in universities in China under the Chinese government scholarship (64 per year) where they also learn Chinese in the process. At present, there are also over 30 Chinese teachers and volunteers teaching Chinese in Kenya.

I appreciate the efforts of the Kenyan side to have strongly supported introducing Chinese learning classes in local universities, colleges and schools. I am glad to note that several primary and secondary schools in Kenya have launched Chinese classes. I firmly believe that through our joint efforts in promoting Chinese learning in Kenya, China-Kenya cultural and educational cooperation will be lifted to even new heights and the two peoples will understand and learn from each other more for the mutual benefits and well being.

 Q. Recently, there has been a shift by Kenya and by far the African continent in terms of business relations and foreign aid. Whereas in the past Kenya and the African continent look to Western countries only, Africa is now going East. What do you think has triggered this shift?

A. In recent years, influenced by the global financial crisis, some developed economies suffered serious economic difficulties, and reduced investment and aid to Africa. In the same period, Africa experienced a fast economic development and achieved a lot in building a more united and stronger Africa. Standing on a new level, the emerging Africa strengthened the exchanges and cooperation with emerging economies, China included, to develop their economies.

The success of emerging economies not only sets an example for Africa to pursue development paths suited to their own national conditions, but also provides new opportunities for Africa. The cooperation between emerging economies and Africa has yielded fruitful results.

Take China, for example - with the establishment of the new type of China-Africa strategic partnership, China has been the largest trading partner of Africa since 2009 and the largest bilateral trade amount approached US$ 15 billion in 50 African countries.

China’s aid for Africa totalled over 110 billion Yuan. This kind of cooperation is based on mutual respect and win-win, and is highly constructive and vigorous.

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