As President Uhuru Kenyatta and other African heads of State camp in Beijing for the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), they must look beyond what will be presented on the round tables.
The last summit was held in 2015 in Johannesburg, where FOCAC was elevated to a comprehensive and strategic partnership. African leaders must start to demand for proceeds of past promises.
Now in its 18th year since inception, the forum which is expected to enhance China-Africa ties, should evaluate gains made, particularly in agriculture, infrastructure and skills transfer.
The meeting which coincides with the fifth anniversary of the proposed Belt and Road Initiative must ensure that China’s expressway to the Heart of Africa not only brings hope, but also economic stability.
Also known as the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, the Belt and Road Initiative aims to build a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient trade routes of the Silk Road.
Granted, the summit’s focus is in infrastructure projects such as railways, highways and airways, and cooperation. China wants to achieve this fete in line with African Union’s Agenda 2063 and UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as well as development strategies of individual African countries.
Being a long-term strategy which will affect the region for years to come, Africa must be very careful in her approach. It’s worth noting that agricultural technology and knowledge transfer initiatives are still ineffective in Africa despite years of cooperation. The continent must, therefore, evaluate goals attained since the 2015 summit.
For Kenya, the summit will be more meaningful to compare and contrast the pros and cons of various trade ties, coming at a time Kenya is closely engaging with global powers. Whatever it takes, the outcome from this meeting must bank on sustainability and it must be people-centric.
Let’s objectively interrogate claims that China is primarily extractive in nature and accompanying apprehension that the country is a competitor that could displace local products from the shelf.
Coupled with the increasing trade imbalance, whatever hurts Kenya must be treated with the disdain it deserves.