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Cheaper raw materials a benefit of closer ties with China

COMMENTARY
By By MOHAMED GULEID | November 27th 2013

By MOHAMED GULEID

KENYA: Back in September, President Uhuru Kenyatta led a strong Government delegation to China to woo Chinese investors to Kenya. How beneficial is this to our country?

This week China is undertaking an investment forum in Kampala where not only national governments are invited, but also an interest has been created for interaction between Chinese investors and local authorities including an invitation extended to governors from Kenya. The level of economic growth in

China is the envy of the western countries, which are in recession so far. Europe and the western world appear to be facing an ever ending recession.

The only place where potential for growth is still open is Africa. Kenya’s economy is expected to grow at around 6 per cent next year, with very ambitious infrastructural and construction projects,

Kenya is in need of a partner with few conditions, like China. The Chinese are interested in raw materials from Kenya such as agricultural products and minerals.

In exchange they are willing to undertake investments within Kenya such as roads, dams and other major investments.

President Uhuru Kenyatta in his speech at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa hinted at the preference of working with oriental countries.

China, once in need of international recognition and now in need of raw materials, has walked carefully and humbly towards Kenya.

The dynamic evolved into what is now called the “Beijing Consensus”, China’s “soft” diplomatic policy, entailing a strict respect for African sovereignty and a hands-off approach to internal issues. In short: loans and infrastructure without any political strings about democracy, transparency, or human rights attached.

China’s ‘non-interference’ model gives African leaders more freedom and the opportunity to work for immediate economic development.

With China, controversial African leaders face a second or third chance to join in international partnerships this time with a successful third world nation; many of the excuses about

Western domination, which had previously been used to justify Africa’s lack of growth, is no longer tenable. To the West, China’s approach threatens the promotion of democracy, transparency, liberalism and free trade, engaging instead

The arrival of a new actor in Africa has led Westerners to review their own strategies as they analyse China’s actions in Africa. The Western response may ultimately aid Africa, as think tanks provide strategic analysis on how African elites can squeeze more out of Chinese investments.

Indeed, it’s clearly in the interest of Africa to play one side against the other, and avoid alliances between China and the West, which might work to decrease raw material prices.

Legal power remains in the hands of local African elites, who may or may not decide to enforce laws, which would tighten control of resources, or further exploit them.

Pursuing democracy and transparency is no longer the sole model for development and as long as African leaders can provide it, their power will be that much assured.

The cases against President Uhuru Kenyatta and Willian Ruto at the ICC have further isolated Kenya from the western countries, including serious diplomatic challenges.

There is a general belief in Kenya that sovereignty of the country has immensely been jeopardised by the ICC cases. The western nations still obsessed with controlling poor countries have added salt to injury by refusing to support an appeal for deferral in the case against the two leaders.

This rift between Kenya and the West has benefits similar to the advantages Kenya enjpyed during the Cold War when it was a darling of the western nations.

Now the reverse is true. China is coming very close to Kenya and gives Kenya a competitive advantage in prices of raw materials. Besides, the Chinese are ready to transfer technology to Kenya.

The construction of the Thika superhighway is clear indication of the benefits of the Kenya-China economic and political relationship.  

The writer is Deputy Governor Isiolo County and chairman of Deputy Governors Forum

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