Kenyan President defends dependence on China for major projects Dependence on China
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has defended the country’s Chinese-backed infrastructure projects, which critics say are secretive, costly and endanger state assets. Kenyatta made the comments Thursday on the Nairobi Expressway toll road site, which a Chinese company is building and operating for 27 years.
The Kenyan government has been criticized for its appetite for Chinese money to fund large-scale infrastructure projects worth billions.
While inspecting a construction site for the 27-kilometer Nairobi highway, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said the country was benefiting from the Chinese.
“Our partnership with China is a mutually beneficial partnership, based on a win-win principle and we are very grateful to the Chinese government and the Chinese people for the support they continue to provide not only to our country but to the rest of Africa. ”Kenyatta said.
Chinese companies are building the highway at a cost of $ 575 million. The road is expected to be completed in March.
Chinese companies also built the $ 3.6 billion Kenya Standard Gauge Railway, which opened in 2017.
Critics of the Kenyan government say most of the agreements between the two countries remain secret and could harm the Kenyan economy.
Kenya has borrowed $ 50 billion to finance its infrastructure projects in recent years and there are concerns that the country’s port of Mombasa will be handed over to China to function if the country does not repay its loans.
In 2015, when Angola failed to repay a loan to China, it used its oil to make the payment, leaving the country with little oil to export to other markets.
James Shikwati is a Nairobi-based economist. He says if a country does not repay its loan, China can take over the country’s assets for a few years.
“All of these developed countries have specific vehicles that guide how they fund a project,” Shikwati said. “The best known is the public-private partnership and now the Chinese have it, but they seem too big on the build-operate-transfer approach. So it’s not necessarily that they are taking your port, but they have to mine it to its optimal level, and then they’ll let you take your port. It’s just a fundraising vehicle.
Like other African countries, Kenya has experienced slow economic growth due to the COVID-19 pandemic, making it difficult to meet financial obligations.
Harriet Muganda worked in the port of Mombasa. She lost her job when the government started sending all sea containers to Nairobi for processing.
She fears that more jobs will be lost if China takes over the management of the port.
We fear a lot, she said. At the moment, it is the government that manages the port of Mombasa and there is not enough work for us. She asks: what if China was executing it? That means we won’t have a job here, she adds.
Shikwati argues that African countries can repay their loans and not lose their national assets if their leaders exercise good governance and stick to a smart political and economic vision.