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China makes bold statement with Foreign minister Wang Yi ’s visit

By Stephen Makabila | Jan 11th 2015 | 3 min read
Uhuru Kenyatta,right, with chinese president Xi Jinping,left as they inspect the chinese guard of honour during uhuru's china visit welcoming ceremony

By making Nairobi the first stop of his African tour yesterday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi demonstrated the close bilateral relations between the two countries, cemented by President Uhuru Kenyatta’s official visit to China in August 2013, only four months after assuming power.

Wang’s trip is meant to follow up on proposals and cooperation agreements signed between China, the world’s fastest growing economy, and Kenya recently.

Making Kenya his first stop signifies that Kenya is a priority to China this year and symbolises the good relations the two countries enjoy.

During his visit in 2013, President Uhuru held successful discussions with President Xi Jinping. China promised to help the Jubilee Government implement its development agenda and improve the economy.

Uhuru received the highest honour accorded to a head of state at his official welcoming ceremony at the Great Hall of the People’s REpublic in Beijing.

Uhuru made a rousing speech, referring to China as a true friend and partner in development, whose relationship with Kenya is not hinged on exploitation or manipulation. Kenya and China signed economic partnership deals worth Sh425 billion, more than a quarter of Kenya’s 2013/2014 national budget.

Before Uhuru’s tour of China, Zhang Baowen, special envoy of President Xi Jinping and vice chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of China, had visited Kenya in April 2013.

In May 2014, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visited Kenya in the last leg of his first African visit since he took office in 2013. Before Kenya, Li visited Ethiopia, Nigeria and Angola, and delivered a speech at the headquarters of the African Union to expound China’s Africa policy. While in Nigeria, he attended a World Economic Forum on Africa. Seventeen agreements worth billions of shillings were signed during Li’s three-day visit to Kenya. They included Sh327 billion to fund the Standard Gauge Railway, with China to fund 85 per cent of project, Sh5.1 billion for the setting up of the China-Africa Research Centre in Nairobi and Sh880 million for conservation.

While Kenya had in the past been mostly associated with Western countries, the current regime and the previous one under President Mwai Kibaki stepped up relations with the East from 2003, with China being the focus. In 2006, during Kibaki’s rule, Chinese President Hu Jintao made a three-day State visit to Kenya. It was his last stop in a five-nation tour that included the United States, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Nigeria.

Wang met the President at State House yesterday and later met Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed. Additional cooperation agreements were signed.

Road development

During his tour, which ends today, the Chinese minister will also meet Cabinet Secretaries involved in the implementation of Chinese-funded projects. It has become a tradition for Chinese Foreign ministers to visit African countries on their first trip abroad every year. This has been maintained for the last 25 years.

Some of the projects undertaken in Kenya with China’s assistance include Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani, the expansion of Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret hospital and road developments. Chinese exports to Kenya mainly include household electric appliances, industrial and agricultural tools, textiles, building materials and drugs.

Kenya in turn exports black tea, coffee and leather goods to China.

There are more than 20 Chinese companies doing business in Kenya, such as Jiangsu International Economic and Technological Cooperation Company; Sichuan International Economic and Technological Cooperation Company Ltd; China Road and Bridge Construction (Group) Corporation; and China Import and Export (Group) Corporation.

During Uhuru’s tour of China in 2013, Xi highlighted the traditional friendship between the two countries, and described the visit as of great significance for the growth of bilateral relations.

The Chinese president also called on the two sides to continue their mutual support on issues relating to their vital interests and to their key concerns, suggesting expansion of bilateral exchange among various political parties, legislatures and local governments.

He also encouraged the two countries to step up their collaboration on cultural, tourism, youth and human resource projects.

On the China-Africa relationship, Xi said China and Africa had a common destiny and China would remain committed to playing a constructive role to promote Africa’s stability and development.

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