By Liu Guangyuan
I congratulate President Kibaki and his Government for opening a new chapter in road network development and setting international standards on the Nairobi-Thika Superhighway.
The expansion of Thika road, now known as the Thika Superhighway has ushered in the best motorway in East and Central Africa. It is noteworthy that this revolutionary piece of highway is located in Kenya a regional hub and gateway to eastern and central Africa.
The Thika Superhighway project commenced about three years ago with the groundbreaking ceremony graced by President Kibaki in December 2009. For the last 10 years, under the leadership of President Kibaki, Kenya has undergone a tremendous transformation. While on the one had the infrastructure has undergone a total revolution, the living standards of Kenyans have improved significantly.
In the last one decade, Chinese companies have undertaken a lot of infrastructure projects in Kenya. They have built roads, schools, airports, and bridges. However, in all those projects, it is in infrastructure and specifically road construction that China has stood head and shoulders above others. The 50.4 kilometre-long, eight-lane super-highway that has eased the once traffic-laden duo carriageway is the ultimate emblem of Sino-Kenyan friendship and development partnership.
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Friends from other diplomatic missions have confirmed to me that they find it is more convenient now to drive in Nairobi since the completion of the Nairobi-Thika Superhighway.
China’s rapid development in the last three decades has been propelled by a dynamic infrastructural development programme. Our development model is now tested and tried. The next phase in the partnership of our two nations therefore must promote knowledge and skills transfer where China shares her lessons with Kenya and vice versa. Kenya’s and indeed Africa’s future will benefit a great deal from a well-planned systematic infrastructure reform process. Only then will Kenya and the rest of Africa boost her internal, regional, continental and international trade. And only then will the much-envisaged economic take-off and whose potential cannot be gainsaid will set in. China believes that Kenya, as is the case with the rest of Africa, is on the right path to prosperity.
The cost of Thika Superhighway as it stands today is a staggering Sh27 billion. The African Development Bank granted Kenya a loan for the commencement of the project while Beijing offered an additional concessional loan amounting to Sh9.44 billion through the Export-Import Bank of China. This is one of the many projects that the Government of China has funded in the last 10 years.
During the Fifth Ministerial Forum on China-Africa Cooperation held from July 19 to 20 in Beijing, China’s President, Hu Jintao, announced China will offer $20 billion in loans to African countries over the next three years. This amount is double the amount offered during the preceding three-year period. The new loans will support infrastructure, agriculture, manufacturing and development of small and medium size business in Africa. President Jintao pledged to continue expanding the aid base meant for Africa in order to accelerate human development.
Investment is an important aspect of Sino-Africa economic cooperation which is why the Government of China has all along encouraged and supported greater investment in the continent. Our trade with and Investment in Africa has been expanding fast. China has been Africa’s largest trading partner for the last three consecutive years. Last year, our two way trade reached an impressive $166.3 billion. During the same period, China’s cumulative direct investment in Africa exceeded $15 billion, with investment products and services covering more than four dozen African countries.
The writer is China’s Ambassador to Kenya. This is abridged version of the speech he gave at the hand-over ceremony of Nairobi-Thika Superhighway on Friday.