Feature: China-themed stands at UN-Habitat Assembly's expo attract Kenyan visitors

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NAIROBI, June 10 (Xinhua) -- Elizabeth Omollo, a 41-year-old mother of one, made a piercing gaze at the stand of China's Tongji University as she strolled along spacious alleys inside the urban expo, held during the second session of the United Nations Habitat Assembly, in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi.

Born in Nairobi's' Mathare slum, Omollo, who is a grassroots mobilizer, admitted that she was drawn to Tongji University's stand to learn about courses that her teenage son, who recently graduated from high school, could pursue.

"I would like my son to pursue higher education in a Chinese university since the country is more developed, especially in areas of technology and infrastructure," Omollo told Xinhua at the expo on Tuesday.

On a balmy mid-morning weather that had enveloped the UN Office at Nairobi, Omollo and her female colleague listened keenly as a representative of Tongji University explained its academic programs.

Chinese-themed stands were conspicuous at the urban expo, held on the sidelines of the assembly which took place on June 5-9.

More than a dozen exhibitors showcased innovative solutions that could be harnessed to accelerate urban renewal in line with the assembly's theme, "A sustainable urban future through inclusive and effective multilateralism: achieving the sustainable development goals in times of global crises."

Sarah Masaki, the principal planner at Kenya's Ministry of Lands, who also visited Tongji University's stand, said she was also keen to learn about academic programs in Chinese universities that align with her area of expertise.

The 52-year-old civil servant said she believed that Chinese institutions of higher learning could offer advanced training on urban planning, infrastructure development and waste management.

In addition, Masaki said academic exchanges between Chinese and Kenyan universities were long overdue to facilitate sharing of knowledge, best practices and experiences on urban renewal.

At Kenya's envisioned technology city's stand, which was manned by young attendants, Jeizan Faruk, the Mombasa County secretary, picked several brochures as he was taken through a catalog of projects in the pipeline aimed at creating a dynamic digital economy.

The Chinese telecoms firm Huawei has partnered with Konza Technopolis Development Authority, which is mandated with establishing a Silicon Savannah in Kenya's southeastern region.

Faruk said as a 39-year-old public servant, he was keenly following the strides the country was making in its quest for Fourth Industrial Revolution that promises jobs and prosperity.

In his interactions with staff members at the envisioned technology city's stand, Faruk said he came to appreciate Huawei's contribution to the expansion of digital infrastructure in the country.

Faruk also visited the stand erected by MOJA, the operator of the Chinese-built 27.1-kilometer Nairobi Expressway, where he gained new insight into Sino-Kenya cooperation in infrastructure development.

Kenya's infrastructure modernization has accelerated thanks to heavy input from China in terms of capital, technology and reskilling of local youth, Faruk said, citing the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway.

He said by attending the urban expo where he spent ample time at China-themed stands, he came to learn that the Asian Nation is a pioneer in global initiatives that can be harnessed locally to regenerate urban centers.

Kenya hosted the five-day UN-Habitat Assembly whose key highlights included a presidential roundtable, side events, and a world cities-themed exhibition that showcased Chinese initiatives that have given a boost to the urban renewal agenda.

Rebecca Bor, a member of the Nairobi River Commission Secretariat, said her visit to the World Cities Day Themed Exhibition enlightened her on China's Sponge City program.

"As a country, we can borrow a leaf from the concept of sponge cities from China to help manage storm waters that are usually a problem in Nairobi during the heavy rain season," Bor said.

She said Kenya's municipal authorities should seek cooperation with their Chinese counterparts to share lessons on pollution control, green mobility, waste management and the regeneration of green spaces in cities.

Nobert Sangura, a retired administrator and coordinator of a green lobby in western Kenya, said his visit to the World Cities Day Themed Exhibition left him with a positive impression of China's advances in urban renewal.

"I have learned that China is way ahead in urban planning using technology, and I think it should be the trend here in Kenya," Sangura added. Enditem

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