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Chinese Premier Li Keqiang inspects a guard of honor mounted by Kenya Defence Forces at the official welcoming ceremony.
Blamuel Njururi, Nairobi, May 12 – Chinese Premier Li Keqiang ended his visit to Kenya on Sunday, declaring the three-day trip yielded “fruitful” results.
China opened a multi-billion-dollar purse to fund numerous Kenya-China trade deals that culminated in the signing of 17 Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) and agreements.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Saturday signed 15 MoUs with Chinese Prime Minister making the Eastern super power one of the leading direct foreign investors in the country. Among the memoranda signed were those on economic and technical co-operation that will see Kenya benefit from multi-billion-dollar grants and interest-free loans from the government of China.
The specific agreements covered a wide range of areas, including financing for infrastructure, agriculture, wildlife conservation, health, water and environmental conservation as well as sports, culture and the arts. The loan instruments to facilitate the Ksh 327 billion Standard Gauge Railway will be signed today in the presence of five heads of States from the East African Community.
President Uhuru was joined by other East African Heads of State: Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Salva Kiir of South Sudan and representative of the governments of Tanzania and Burundi, for talks with the Premier centered on developing regional infrastructure.
The East African leaders said at the ceremony that the Mombasa-Nairobi railway will increase transport capacity of East African countries, accelerate interconnection and regional integration of East Africa and boost East African countries’ economic development.
Speaking to the press, Kenyan President Uhuru and Ugandan President Museveni both agreed that the Mombasa-Nairobi railway has significant and far-reaching impact in boosting interconnection and regional integration in East Africa.
Speaking at the signing ceremony, Li said the presence of the African leaders and their representatives demonstrated African countries’ common desire to develop railway network in East Africa. A country has to improve transportation infrastructure before its economy takes off, Li said, adding that China is ready to share its technology and experience in railway construction with all parties and cooperate with them in project design, construction, equipment, management, personnel training and financing.
China is willing to join hands with Africa to build the continent’s networks of high-speed railway, expressway and regional aviation, and the Mombasa-Nairobi railway is an important part of those networks, he said. Addressing reporters after the ceremony, Li said the building of the railway is a good start, and China is ready to work with Kenya to turn the railway into a model project.
“Chinese companies have to abide by local rules and respect local customs during their operations here, and they have to fulfill their due social responsibilities,” Li said, adding that China-Africa cooperation is not merely about projects, but also means people-to-people interaction.
The Chinese Premier visit was also loaded with international symbolism to the West, signifying an apparent shift in Kenya’s foreign policy. Prior to the March 2013 presidential elections, Western governments indicated that they would be unhappy if President Uhuru and deputy President William Ruto were elected to the high offices, given the ICC charges of crimes against humanity they are facing.
The US warned of “consequences” if they won, while Britain said it would maintain only “essential contacts” with the duo as long as they faced trial in The Hague. To the new Kenyan government all that is water gone down the bridge.
Kenya’strade with China favors the Communist country. Imports from China account for about Ksh 270 billion, its exports amount to Ksh 4.2 billion, skewing the balance of payments heavily in favour of China. Much of Kenya’s exports are raw products mostly agricultural.
These include vegetables, skin, leather and textiles which offer lower revenues when compared to imports from China such as vehicles, spare parts, electronic goods and high value products such as iron and steel and ready made apparel.
Mr Keqiang and his delegation arrived in Kenya aboard an Air China aircraft amid tight security at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. He was received with song and dance momentarily bringing business at the usually busy airport to a standstill.
The Kenyan President, his Deputy and a host of senior government officials received him at the airport before being driven in a long convoy to the city. At State House, the Chinese PM was given a 21-gun salute by the Kenyan military symbolizing the significance of his visit.