While traditional partners wrote Africa off as a “hopeless continent,” China chose to invest in developing Africa’s vast potential as a resource-rich frontier and future market.
China became a committed friend and partner. China, now focused on building a community of shared future for mankind, launched the Belt and Road Initiative in 2013.
President Xi Jinping described the initiative as a means to achieve infrastructure, politics, trade, finance and people-to-people connectivity to create new engines for common development.
52 of the 55 member states of the African Union now participate in the BRI. As of April, 149 countries and 32 international organizations around the world had signed more than 200 cooperation documents with China to build the “Belt and Road” together.
In fact, the BRI has become an inseparable part of the story of the “Rise of Kenya and Africa”.
Reflecting the success of China’s reform and opening-up since 1978, the BRI has greatly inspired Africa.
China’s development growth, fueled by free market reforms, has enabled Beijing to lift more than 800 million Chinese out of poverty and eliminate extreme poverty by December 2020.
To put the BRI in context, China has supported Africa by building some 100,000 kilometers of roads, more than 10,000 kilometers of railways, nearly 100 ports and numerous hospitals and schools, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi noted during the fifth session in March of the 13th National People’s Congress in Beijing.
By achieving these development milestones, the BRI has aligned its vision and mission with the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and specific visions of countries such as Kenya’s Vision 2030.
In Kenya, through the BRI, China has supported modern infrastructure projects such as railways, road upgrading, port construction, dams, industries, digital connectivity and airports, all of which have brought vitality to the country’s economic and development growth.
In terms of rail projects, for example, the Mombasa-Nairobi phase of the standard gauge railway, a flagship project of Kenya’s Vision 2030, cost about $3.8 billion – 90 percent of which was funded by the Export-Import Bank of China and the rest by the Kenyan government . The 472km railway track is in line with the common principle of building an ecological civilization that balances development and environmental protection, as 14 wildlife canals have been built on the 120km portion of the track that traverses Tsavo National Park in Kenya.
Its impact was immense. The railway line has integrated a transportation network in East Africa, created about 46,000 jobs for local people, enhanced bilateral economic and trade development, and boosted cultural exchanges between China and Kenya.
The Nairobi-Naivasha railway, totaling 120 km and built at a cost of US$1.48 billion, according to Kenya’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs for Transport and Infrastructure, will facilitate Africa’s industrialization as well as the economic prosperity of areas along the railway.
In addition, the BRI has led to the construction of approximately 115 km of Nairobi bypasses, the 27.1 km Nairobi Expressway, the 453 km Lamu-Garissa Road and 300 km of informal settlement roads in Nairobi.
These roads have effectively reduced congestion and boosted regional economic development through the convenient movement of goods and services across the country.
In terms of port projects, the Mombasa Port berth and storage facility projects will improve the port traffic flow, while the Kipevu Oil Terminal will improve the efficiency of oil transportation in Kenya.
In addition, the Likoni Floating Bridge and Makupa Bridge, which cost a total of $60 million to build, have improved the movement of pedestrians and motorcycles and ensured safety.
In line with the BRI agreements, Kenya commits to promoting a free trade regime in an open world economy while embracing the trends towards a multipolar world, economic globalization and cultural diversity.
Kenya and China have agreed through the BRI to further strengthen cooperation based on the principle of broad consultations, common contributions and common benefits.
Through the agreements, the two partners are committed to the ideals of globalization in a world that is increasingly turning to anti-globalization tendencies such as protectionism and isolation.
The author is executive director of the China-Africa Center at the Africa Policy Institute in Kenya.