China’s President Xi Jinping on January 17 replied to a letter from representatives of Kenyan students and alumni of Beijing Jiaotong University.
The move reflects the high importance that China attaches to its relations with Kenya－in particular, cooperation in areas such as jointly building the Belt and Road, talent development, and youth exchanges.
The letter to President Xi was co-signed by more than 40 Kenyan students and alumni who have benefited from a scholarship programme focused on railway operation and management. Since 2016, some 100 Kenyan students have been enrolled in one of China’s top universities to acquire knowledge in railway operation and management, a programme aimed at supporting the construction and operation of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR).
Many of them have since returned and are actively involved in managing the SGR, often referred to as the “railway to happiness.” Notably, six of them have chosen to return to China for further study in railway-related fields.
These students represent just a fraction of the educational exchange between China and Kenya. The story dates back to 1983, when Joseph Kibii Maritim became the first recorded Kenyan student to receive a Chinese government scholarship to study in China, attending the same university as those who recently penned the letter to President Xi.
According to the China Scholarship Council’s database, since 1983, the Chinese government has officially supported 1,985 Kenyan students with full scholarships to study in China. This impressive achievement reflects the deep-rooted friendship and evolving bilateral relations.
Over the past decade, the Chinese Ambassador Scholarship programme has assisted more than 400 Kenyan students. The University of Nairobi hosts the first Confucius Institute in Africa, which was established in 2005. Kenya has four such institutes, providing Kenyans with opportunities to learn the Chinese language.
Cooperation also extends to Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET). The first Luban Workshop in Kenya, a joint effort between Tianjin City Vocational College and Huawei, was established in Machakos University. This initiative teaches students cutting-edge technologies such as cloud computing, contributing to the cultivation of ICT talents in Kenya.
Additionally, two bilateral cooperation projects on vocational education have been successfully implemented in Kenya since 2011, upgrading and transforming 144 universities and colleges across 47 counties and benefiting over 200,000 students.
In August 2023, during the China-Africa Leaders’ Dialogue in Johannesburg, President Xi announced the Plan for China-Africa Cooperation on Talent Development. This ambitious plan includes the annual training of 500 principals and high-caliber teachers of vocational colleges, the education of 10,000 technical personnel proficient in both Chinese language and vocational skills for Africa, and inviting 20,000 government officials and technicians from African countries to participate in workshops and seminars.
We anticipate that China and Kenya will make even more significant progress in educational cooperation, working towards the shared goal of building an even closer China-Kenya community with a shared future in the new era.
Dr. Zhou Pingjian is the Chinese Ambassador to Kenya