A number of Kenyan employees working in Chinese companies locally believe that China’s growing involvement in the country and Africa at large has had a positive impact on the economy.
The group, which took part in a story contest dubbed “My China Story” organized by the Kenya-China Economic and Trade Association (KCETA), to commemorate 10 years of Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), narrated how Chinese firms spread across various sectors have brought capital investments, management know-how, and entrepreneurial energy to almost every corner of Africa. In the process, these workers said Chinese enterprises have provided technology, experience and standards to Africa, even as they acquired jobs, skill training and higher income.
Amid the debate over Chinese engagements in Africa, the workers argue that the investments made by China have helped to fast-track growth of the continent’s economies especially in the last decade courtesy of BRI that was proposed by President Xi Jinping in 2013. They gave an account of how they have greatly benefitted from projects initiated locally through BRI.
The employees were drawn from companies that included Afristar Railway Operation Company, China Road & Bridge Corporation, Moja Express Way (Kenya), China Energy International Group Company Limited, China Aerospace Construction Group Co., Ltd, AVIC-International (Kenya) and Stecol corporation- Power China. 90 percent of employees in these companies are local.
Concilia Owire, an employee of Afristar, the company which operates Standard Gauge Railway narrated how Chinese company CRBC offered her a scholarship opportunity to fulfil her dream by studying Locomotive & Rolling Stock Engineering. Besides technology transfer, she says the opportunity granted her a chance to also learn about a new culture.
“I stand here today as one of the many Kenyans who have benefited from technology transfer under the Kenyan SGR, with personal achievements like being the first Kenyan female locomotive driver, being the only Kenyan who has independently operated over 140,000km and being honored at the United Nations in 2022 as an epitome of women empowerment. I am proud of myself, and I’m grateful for my instructors who made it possible,”
“I am now a role model to many young Kenyan girls and serve as a railway ambassador to show the benefits of this modern railway, the benefits it has brought to us as a transport hub of East Africa,” added Owire
Another Kenyan David Kamore said he was privileged to be one of the recipients of the prestigious Chinese government scholarship back in 2009. This scholarship allowed me to pursue a course in electrical engineering. Upon graduation her returned home and is now working with China Aerospace Construction Group Co. Ltd. Kamore says he is optimistic about China – Kenya relationship and the opportunities it holds for future collaboration and growth.
“Because of the China Kenya relationship, I was able to study in China, later I was able to work in a Chinese company where I am part of the team implementing a massive power project, that allows me to directly contribute to Kenya’s energy sector development and by extension development of Kenya’s economy. I am therefore grateful for the opportunities that China has provided me,” he said
Jeanne May, now a Public Relations Manager at the MOJA Expressway Company Limited says the Chinese, whose culture and work ethics she admired, gave her a job as office assistant fresh from college. She says the impact of Chinese engagements in local communities cannot be overemphasized.
“It fills me with joy to see all these massive (Chinese) projects come to fruition with an extra feather on my cap after every successful launch and operations (at Nairobi Expressway). The many roads, bridges and railways constructed under the Belt and Road Initiative have not only contributed to the growth of the economy but they also hold significance meaning to different communities,” she said
On her part, Gisemba Gloria Bochere from China Road and Bridge Corporation, who started off as a mere office clerk, before being promoted to become the company’s public relations officer and later Admin, says the Belt and Road Initiative has not only transformed the landscape of opportunities for the people of Kenya but has also been the catalyst of her own transformation.
“It brought economic growth, cultural exchange, education, and a career enriched by experiences I never thought possible. The tangible symbol of this transformation is the unimaginable SGR, smoothing the journey to Mombasa,” noted Bochere
“China has been good to me” reiterated John Mwangi who works for AVIC International. He acknowledges that the Chinese offered lots of him opportunities to change his life and the lives of people around him for the better.
“My interaction with China has been full of happiness and positive impact. I hope that what I have learnt can one day be used to make my country Kenya great. I hope that my country can learn from China, especially on matters economy and development,” said Mwangi
My China Story competition was also a tribute to contributions made by 22,676 Kenyan employees in Chinese enterprises and who have worked towards strengthening Sino-Kenyan relations.
And as China and Kenya celebrate 60 years of collaboration and 10 years of the Belt and Road Initiative, the young employees remain optimistic that the ties binding Nairobi-Beijing will remain strong and that their people will enjoy mutual prosperity.
The BRI anniversary will be held in Beijing and President William Ruto is expected to be among tens of world leaders who will converge in Chinese capital to take stock of the progress made since it was operationalized.