During his visit to Beijing, President Uhuru and the Chinese President Xi Jinping “signed a cooperation agreement within the Framework of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road Initiative.” The initiative aims to promote economic prosperity, development, and regional economic cooperation. The Silk Belt and Road initiative will connect Asian, European, and African countries more closely.
The agreement, among others, was signed at the Great hall of the People where the two leaders discussed ways to strengthen the comprehensive and strategic partnership between the two nations.
President Kenyatta appreciated China’s commitment to support Kenya’s development goals while noting that the next Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) is in line with the country’s Big Four agenda.
“It is my ambition that we shall continue to strengthen our strategic and comprehensive partnership,” he stated.
China and Kenya have been cooperating in various sectors such as infrastructure, industrialisation, energy, technology transfer, agriculture, peace and security, capacity building, environmental protection, and people-to-people exchanges.
“Kenya is satisfied with the tremendous progress achieved in our bilateral cooperation, and continues to open up new areas of cooperation,” the President added.
The SGR Project
President Uhuru observed that the first phase of the SGR project, which was completed before schedule, is already reaping benefits for the country. He also highlighted the significant by-product of building human capacity in railway engineering that is emanating from the project.
To this end, the University of Nairobi, the Beijing Jiaotong University, and the Kenya Railways Corporation signed a MoU which will facilitate the training of railway engineers and managers for the SGR operations and management.
“My government appreciates your government’s commitment to developing jointly with our Railway Training Institute, the appropriate vocational and technical skills to ensure optimal management of the rail network on a sustainable basis,” President Kenyatta said.
With regards to the SGR project, skill transfer to the Kenyan workers has been slow due to language barriers and cultural differences.
“It will take time for them to socialise and fully engage with one another,” the Chinese ambassador to Kenya Sun Baohong said. Still, the alleged abuse of Kenyan workers by the Chinese workers could create a greater divide between the two parties.
Despite the success of the SGR project, Kenyans have a major debt burden which has surpassed the Sh5 trillion mark. This debt could potentially derail Kenya’s economic prospects while increasing the pressure of the already overburdened Kenyans.
That said, the completion of the China-Africa Summit could see President Kenyatta sign the postponement of the implementation of the fuel levy thereby alleviating the pressure on Kenyans the tax has already caused since Sunday.