Kenya is among other global countries to benefit from China’s over $1.4 trillion infrastructure programme designed to connect Asia, Europe and Africa.
The new ambitious project dubbed Silk Road Initiative has been developed to create a network of modern trading routes connecting countries within the regions.
The plans envisions new roads, high-speed rail, power plants, pipelines, ports and airports and telecommunications links that would boost commerce between China and 60 countries in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.
China has organized a forum, Belt and Road Forum, targeting about 28 heads of state and government from 70 countries from across the world
Last week, State House Spokesperson, Manoah Esipisu, giving President Uhuru Kenyatta’s schedule for this month said that the President will be among the dignitaries to attend the May 14 -15 forum in Beijing China.
The roundtable summit theme is “Strengthening International Cooperation and Co-building the “Belt and Road for Win-Win Development.”
The strategy underlines China’s push to take a bigger role in global affairs, and its need for priority capacity cooperation in areas such as steel manufacturing.
The forum will focus on the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road initiated by China. Kenya is one of the countries covered by the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.
Esipisu said Kenya stands to benefit immensely from the Chinese initiative as it is a natural maritime route and that through the LAPSSET project which is an extension of the Maritime Silk Road will create massive economic advantages for Kenya.
On a bilateral level, Kenya and China’s relations remain strong and as a result of this partnership, Kenya has benefited with some of the significant projects being the standard gauge railway and the first three berths at the Lamu Port.
Local scholars state that China’s new development strategy targeting the African continent is likely to spur high economic growth as well as deepen trade between the two regions.
International Economics lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Dr. Gerishon Ikiara says the new engagement could also rapidly unblock barriers to mass transportation of goods.
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“Kenya will seek to increase its export trade with China through the Maritime Silk Road,” Dr. Ikiara said.
He added that the Silk route should make it easier for Kenyan goods to access the Chinese markets.”
He added that the Kenyan business community encounters logistical challenges when exporting goods to China, thus an integrated Maritime Silk Road would help reduce obstacles.
Kenya as one of China’s growing trade partners, Dr. Ikiara notes, must brace for the opening up of the ancient trade routes between East Africa and the Far East
The plan will focus on infrastructure construction of countries along the route. China will coordinate customs, quality supervision, e-commerce and other agencies to facilitate the scheme, which is also likely to contain attempts to build free trade zones.
China elevated its diplomatic relations with Kenya to a comprehensive partnership in 2013 with the former becoming the second largest trading partner.
Chinese investments are slightly above Ksh47.4 billion (USD 474 million).
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According to the economic survey 2017, imports from China have continued to grow over the last five years making the country the leading source of Kenya’s imports in 2016.
The value of imports from China rose from KSh320.8 billion in 2015 to KSh337.5 billion in 2016. The major commodities imported from China included wind powered generators, rails and signaling systems.
Prof. Munene Macharia, a Lecturer of International Relations at the United States International University (USIU) said that China was already involved in the construction of many sea ports along the Maritime Silk Road.
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“ Kenya has an opportunity to seek technical and financial assistance from China to help construct and modernise the Lamu Port which will help the country in its quest to be an economic hub for Eastern and Central Africa”, Prof. Macharia said.
The Maritime Silk Road dates back to as early as 2,000 years ago, when ancient merchants sailed from China’s eastern coast, passing Southeast Asia, Southernmost of India and East Africa, all the way to the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea, strengthening economic ties and cultural exchanges.