Kenyans ‘don’t trust China as trade partner’

Seth Onyango @SethManex

Most Kenyans have lost trust in China as the country’s best development partner and now want the government to pursue more economic cooperation with the United States.

According to a new Ipsos poll, more Kenyans see the US as the development partner of great benefit, compared to its main competitor China at 34 per cent and 26 per cent, respectively.

This is despite China having established a more visible footprint in Kenya through huge infrastructure projects it has financed such as the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR).

Nonetheless, China’s rating in infrastructure remains high among most Kenyans polled. China ratings for infrastructure is more than twice that of the US 86 per cent compared to US 38 per cent.

Kenyans accuse China of infiltrating the local market with cheap products and encroaching on the jobs meant for the citizens.

There is, however, a sharp contrast between Jubilee supporters and their National Super Alliance (Nasa) counterparts in the way they perceive the populous Asian nation.

Forty four per cent of Jubilee supporters favour strong relations with China compared to those in Nasa at 24 per cent. Additionally, 33 per cent of Opposition supporters approve good relations with the US compared to 23 per cent of those in the Jubilee camp.

This shift from the findings of Ipsos in March survey is seen in the decline  of support for China among Jubilee government’s supporters and among those of Nasa. 

“Among the former, positive identification of China has dropped from 44 per cent then to just 30 per cent, with almost as many (28 per cent) now considering the US as the country’s most important development partner.

Among Nasa supporters, such positive identification of China was 24 per cent (as opposed to 32 per cent for the US), whereas in this survey, this gap has increased to 49 per cent for the US versus just 19 per cent for China,” read the report in part.

Ipsos Research Analyst Tom Wolf said an upward trajectory in the approval of relations with China compared to the US at the height of electioneering last year.

“Here, it seems that the earlier ‘bashing’ the US (and in particular, outgoing US ambassador Robert Godec) had taken from the Opposition in connection with last year’s two elections has now largely been forgotten,” said Ipsos.

On the negative scale, in terms of perceived threats to Kenya’s development by any non-regional foreign countries, China out-scores the US by more than 2-1 (26 per cent vs 12 per cent), likewise a major shift from Ipsos’ previous (March) survey, when these two countries were ranked nearly evenly in such terms.” A private US firm Bechtel has won the contract to construct the Mombasa-Nairobi dual carriage way.

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