(BRF2023) Interview: Kenyan president highlights stronger ties between Kenya, China through BRI

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, October 18, 2023
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by Xinhua writer Li Hualing, Liu Wanli, Bedah Mengo

NAIROBI, Oct. 17 (Xinhua) -- The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has strengthened ties between China and Kenya by spurring development, Kenyan President William Ruto has said.

Kenya is one of the African countries that has successfully implemented BRI programs supported by the Chinese government, Ruto told Xinhua in an interview on the eve of his visit to China to attend the third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation.

The forum, held in Beijing on Oct. 17-18, is attended by over 4,000 delegates from more than 140 countries, including heads of state, senior officials and business representatives. The theme for the forum is "High-quality Belt and Road Cooperation: Together for Common Development and Prosperity.

Ruto commended the relations between the two nations, highlighting that China established diplomatic ties with Kenya just two days after the African country gained independence, fostering a relationship that has flourished over the last 60 years.

He expressed appreciation for the mutual respect and trust between the two countries, noting that the cooperative efforts have deepened and benefitted the people of both nations.

"We have the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), which is now about 600 kilometers. And we are also beneficiaries of road infrastructure programs that have seen close to 2,000 km," Ruto said during the interview in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi.

He said that Kenya has aligned its development program, Vision 2030, with those of development partners like China, which has enabled the country to incorporate initiatives like the BRI, noting that African nations can draw valuable lessons from China's development.

The president said various Chinese initiatives, including the BRI, the Global Development Initiative, the Global Security Initiative and the Global Civilization Initiative, exemplify China's vision for fostering comprehensive, inclusive and sustainable global development. He also spoke highly of China's tangible actions in practicing multilateralism, saying Kenya identifies shared values with China and actively supports and participates in the China-proposed global initiatives.

Speaking of the third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, Ruto emphasized the success of the BRI. "We are celebrating 10 years of what I consider to be a success, especially in the context of Kenya."

"We have successfully rolled out many aspects of the Belt and Road Initiative. We have the first-ever Standard Gauge Railway built under this program. We have many road projects built on this program. We have investments like the toll roads (Nairobi Expressway) for the first time in Kenya under the same framework. And we are also looking at going beyond the public space and working with the private sector," Ruto said.

In the renewable energy sector, Ruto applauded China's long-term investments. "China is spearheading technology in the new energy sector in Kenya, which is advocating for climate action that enables us to unlock the huge potential that we have in solar, geothermal, wind and hydro energy," Ruto noted, expressing Kenya's goal of achieving a 100 percent clean energy transition by 2030.

According to statistics from the state-owned Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority, Kenya has an estimated 18,000 megawatts of solar power potential, followed by geothermal and wind at 10,000 and 4,600 megawatts, respectively. Kenya is closer to achieving its clean energy transition goals with the 55 megawatts Garissa Solar Power Plant and the Menengai Geothermal Power Plant, financed and constructed by Chinese firms.

Speaking of his visit to China, Ruto said his focus would be enhancing future collaboration. "I am also looking forward to profiling Kenya, with the opportunities that exist not just within Kenya, but in our region and continent and encouraging investment," he said.

Ruto also mentioned investment opportunities for the Chinese private sector in Kenya, including the digital economy, mobility ecosystem, manufacturing and industrialization.

Kenya is China's largest trading partner in East Africa, while China is Kenya's largest trading partner and source of imports. In 2022, the trade between the two countries reached 8.52 billion U.S. dollars, an increase of 22.9 percent year-on-year, Chinese official data showed.

Ruto also dismissed the claim of the so-called "debt trap" hyped by some Western media, emphasizing the win-win nature of bilateral ties.

The Kenya-China relationship encompasses various facets other than infrastructure and trade, said the Kenyan leader.

Kenya was the site of the first-ever Confucius Institute in Africa, and there has been growth in scientific research cooperation, resulting in the launch of the book "The Flora of Kenya," which marks the first publication about Kenya's national flora and fills the gap in plant resources research in the country.

"How do we shorten the distance between Kenya and China? How do we build a greater relationship? How do we enhance the people-to-people interaction? And already, we are working on many aspects of scholarships for exchange programs between our countries. This is the future. The more we connect, the more we associate, the more we share," Ruto said.

"We know what we want. We choose our friends, and we choose the people to work with," the president said, affirming that Kenya will maintain a solid, practical and mutually beneficial relationship with China. Enditem

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