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How Kenyans are enjoying fruits of China’s Belt and Road initiative

Jeane Ongiyo

As world leaders settle for the 2nd Belt and Road Forum starting in Beijing, China today, they have an opportunity to gauge perceptions of the much-publicised Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which focuses on improving connectivity and enhancing common development.

Though the BRI aims to boost trade through investment in ports, power plants and other infrastructure in more than 80 counties across Asia, Europe and Africa, China has been accused of saddling countries with debts that they would otherwise not afford to pay back.

Western European Diplomats have heavily criticised the initiative for favouring Chinese companies and aiming to propagate Beijing’s geopolitical goals of influence.

Despite sharp criticism, most notably from US, China has proved to be renowned in the field of construction of high-end infrastructure which has in turn set them apart as “Men of Action”. 

A country like Cambodia, for example, which has a similar population and economic growth index with Kenya, has shown tremendous growth in the infrastructural realm leading to a gradual increase in gross domestic product (GDP).

All these developments have been attributed to Cambodia embracing and implementing the BRI within their borders, hence boosting their economic growth even further.

However, for Kenya, the fruits of the BRI have already seen the light of day through  the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) project which is currently operational and on its second phase of construction.

The SGR project should not be treated in isolation as a stand-alone initiative meant to revolutionise the economy. There are plenty of spill over effects of the operation of the Mombasa-Nairobi SGR line.

Towns such as Nairobi, Voi and Emali have opened up their borders as internationally recognised areas of interest to tourists, boasting a comprehensive railway system from Mombasa to the majestic Nairobi National Park and its rich environs.

This is the first project of its kind in over 100 years that has been able to connect and devolve transport industry and boost tourism.

SGR project aside, Kenya can use channels from states that are in support of the BRI as a platform to improve other necessities and to achieve integrated development in the whole society.

On irrigation, which has been a heated topic following the alleged embezzlement of funds that were initially reserved for the construction of multipurpose dams, Kenya can borrow a leaf from China on how to go about this.  One of this is three Gorges Dam, a reputable hydroelectric gravity dam that spans the Yangtze River.

If Kenya chooses to embark on a similar dam project, once successful, the country will not only be able to support agriculture by providing constant food supply for the over 40 million people, but also provide an alternative to the shortage of power. The writer is the executive for external relations and cooperation at China Communications Construction Company.  [email protected]

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