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BRI at 10: Leaders say Belt and Road Initiative has been a game changer for Africa

China Import of agricultural products from Africa increased remarkably with average growth rate of 11.4% in the last few years.

Kisumu East MP Shakeel Shabbir (Left), Kenya’s first female locomotive Driver Concilia Owire and Minister Counsellor at the Chinese Embassy in Kenya Zhang Yijun (Right) at My China Story competition award ceremony.

A section of leaders drawn from Kenya’s political and business sectors have lauded the development contribution of China to Africa through the Belt and Road Initiative.

The leaders noted that BRI has been a significant source of funding for African countries, with Chinese loans helping to build railways, highways, and airports across the continent.

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Speaking at an event organized to reward locals working in Chinese enterprises in Kenya on Friday, the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI) Chief Executive Officer Patrick Nyangweso applauded the Chinese government for coming up with a platform that is transforming economies by making countries think beyond their national borders.

“The Belt and Road Initiative by the People’s Republic of China has really contributed to a lot of significance when it comes to expansion of our business. The perspective of the private sector on this initiative has been a game changer and has really transformed our economy over the last ten years,” he said

“In terms of expanding market opportunities, most of the markets where the business could not access has been opened up under the belt and road initiative, he added.

He highlighted China’s import of agricultural products from Africa which he said has increased remarkably with average growth rate of 11.4% in the last few years. The KNCCI official further lauded the decision by China last year to extend zero tariff treatment to 98% of tax items for products to the East Asian nation.

Mr Nyagweso noted that expansion of infrastructure has facilitated movement of goods and services from one place to another.

Through Belt and Road Initiative, he pointed out that Kenya and China have seen trade between them accelerated by E-Commerce platforms, Livestreaming shopping, E-Payment. He indicated that the Kenya chamber has established an office in Hunan Province of China to facilitate trade and investment between the two countries even as he disclosed that Kenyan companies have signed over 13 MOUs with Chinese associations to unlock trade between the two countries.

During the event organized by the Kenya-China Economic and Trade Association (KCETA), the chairman of the Kenya-China Friendship Group of Parliament Shakeel Shabbir was categorical that Kenya has received numerous benefits for being part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

“In Kenya alone, we see the Chinese hand in our Standard Gauge Railway (SGR); in various road transits including the Dongo Kundu Bypass in Mombasa and the Nairobi Expressway; and most recently, in the manufacturing and deployment of electric buses for cheaper, safer, and cleaner public transport,” said the lawmaker

According to Shabbir, the quid pro quo approach taken by the Chinese means that the countries they engage with, benefit immensely in the development of infrastructure. And he says the ripple effect of this can be seen in the value chain of industry and ultimately, in the boost to international trade between cooperating partners.

“The Chinese have been partners and not colonizers or ‘parasites’ for their acknowledgement and appreciation of the African culture and resources which we can leverage even as we seek their help in the development of our infrastructure,” he said

The legislator added; “Belt and road is the greatest thing that happened to us in the last ten years,” even as he undertook to continue efforts to change narratives about China.

Nairobi Woman MP Esther Passaris said Kenya will never take its relationship with China for granted, stating; “this is a 60-year relationship, and this relationship is getting stronger and stronger,” she said Chinese companies operating locally are sharing the futures of many young Kenyans by giving them training and job opportunities.

“During the Covid pandemic I was struggling to provide water tanks, pay rent among other things, and Chinese embassy in Kenya was so helpful and gave us a lot of support which enabled us to help a lot of people. They gave us invaluable support. You helped us save lives,” she said

Minister Counsellor at the Chinese Embassy in Kenya Zhang Yijun noted that whereas the Belt and Road Initiative will help promote the objective of building a global community with a shared future. And even though it was proposed by China, he says everyone around the globe can benefit from the initiative.

“BRI means opportunities and dreams. It means joy and happiness. It means jobs and employment. It brings us much closer. To Kenya and China, it doesn’t just mean roads bridges, and railways, it also means peace and development and win-win cooperation,” he said

The third Belt and Road Forum will be held in Beijing next week and a huge delegation from Kenya led by President William Ruto will be in attendance.

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