Kenya is one of the birthplaces of mankind. It has magnificent mountains and rivers, its scenery is beautiful, and it is famous for its wild animal resources.
The equator and the Great Rift Valley of East Africa run through its east, west and north, forming the well-known "East African Cross".
The friendly people of the country respect nature, love peace and work hard. Forty-four tribes in the country co-exist in a harmonious way, and their diverse civilisations blend with each other to form a unique Swahili culture.
Since its independence in 1963, Kenya’s economic and social development has been at the centre of business, finance, cross-border exchange and transportation in East Africa. Its capital, Nairobi, is a “green city under the sun” with regional headquarters of UNEP, UN-Habitat and numerous international business organisations.
Kenya also owns the port of Mombasa, the largest port in East Africa. The port is benefiting landlocked neighbors such as Uganda and Rwanda.
In recent years, Kenya has maintained rapid economic growth, political and social stability, and a solid legal system. According to the World Bank's 2018 World Business Environment Report, Kenya's Doing Business Index ranks third in Africa, and Nairobi is one of the most popular African cities for foreign investors.
The friendly exchanges between China and Kenya have a long history. According to historical records such as "Zheng He Nautical Chart", Zheng He’s fleet set off from China’s Jiangsu and Fujian 600 years ago, sailed through Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean all the way to “Manbasa" and "Malin" on the east coast of Africa.
The two places are Mombasa and Malindi in today’s Kenya. Zheng He brought porcelain, silk and tea to Africa. In return, envoys of the Malindi King travelled with Zheng’s fleet to China, bringing giraffes to Nanjing, the then capital of China.
Royal painters of the Ming Dynasty painted a well-known picture based on the giraffes they saw. Many Chinese ancient porcelain items have been found in Africa, and Kenya claims the highest number in this regard.
In stark contrast to the some other African coastlines which involved slavery and exploitation of resources in history, Kenya’s coastline tells a story of friendship, and it also demonstrates the vitality and influence of the Maritime Silk Road.
As Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has said, Zheng He spread the seeds of friendship in Kenya. Kenya has been an important link between Africa and China since ancient times.
Today, under President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative, friendly cooperation between China and Kenya is continuing. At the Port of Mombasa, giant modern cargo ships have replaced traditional vessels.
In order to facilitate logistics and personnel exchanges between Mombasa and Nairobi, China and Kenya jointly built a modern railway, realising a long-standing dream of the Kenyan people.
With the joint efforts of the two governments and more than 40,000 workers, the construction of the 472-kilometer Mombasa–Nairobi Railway was completed in only two and a half years.
More than a year after its operation began, the railway has transported more than 140 million passengers and more than 1 million tons of cargo. People travelling on the rail line can not only enjoy the magnificent scenery outside, but also sense the vitality brought by the railway to the economic and social development along the route.
This largest infrastructure project in Kenya's history is a good example of China-Africa cooperation in capacity building. The project, which has adopted Chinese standards, equipment, technology and management skills, has set a model on how China’s railway industry can go global in the future.
It has also laid a solid foundation for future cooperation between China and Africa. With the planned completion of a new section connecting Mombasa with Naivasha next year, this railway is set to pass through the Ngong Hills, enter the Great Rift Valley and extend to the hinterland of Africa, symbolising the win-win cooperation, the successful practice of ecological protection and a path to prosperity.
The China-Africa Joint Research Center is another landmark China-Kenya cooperation project. This is the first comprehensive research institute China has helped set up in Africa, and is a milestone in China-Africa scientific and technological cooperation.
It focuses on protecting biodiversity, combating desertification, developing modern agriculture, and promoting sustainable development. It provides an open platform for scientists from Central Africa and other regions to do research on biological resources, remote sensing, and epidemiology.
Since its inception, the center has helped train more than 30 masters and doctors from different African countries, and has achieved a number of research results in prevention of disaster and disease, cultivation of crop variety, and application of traditional African medicine. These results are starting to generate benefits.
The Mombasa-Nairobi Railway and the China-Africa Joint Research Center are two early-stage harvest of the cooperation under framework of the Belt and Road Initiative. The railway and the research center are the two engines to enhance infrastructure construction and high-tech cooperation.
They are also a vivid portrayal of the China-Africa Community of Shared Future, which embraces the spirit of sharing, co-construction, and sincerity.
Following the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, under the guidance of building a community of shared future, under the influence of the Belt and Road Initiative, the China-Kenya relationship has been upgraded to a comprehensive strategic partnership.
The high-level exchanges between the two sides have been frequent, political mutual trust has been continuously enhanced, and bilateral coordination in international and regional affairs has been closely coordinated.
Both the width and depth of cooperation in various fields have been expanding. In governance, Kenya’s ruling Jubilee Party is eager to learn from the Communist Party of China. The political exchanges between the two sides are in the ascendant.
As a spearhead and strategically-important point in the Belt and Road Initiative, Kenya is an important partner of China to promote the initiative and China-Africa industrial capacity cooperation.
China has become Kenya's largest trading partner, its largest source of foreign investment, and its largest engineering contractor. Of the over 30 “flagship projects” announced by the Kenyan government, more than half are invested by the Chinese.
Chinese companies have helped Kenya achieve a full coverage of information networks and digital TV networks. Chinese TV and radio channels such as CGTN have been localized, becoming a bridge on air to link the peoples of the two sides.
The number of Confucius Institute in Kenya has grown from one to four. China has also helped Kenya build a number of hospitals, set up malaria prevention and treatment centers, provide poverty alleviation and disaster relief assistance.
The number of Kenyan students studying in China and the number of Chinese tourists travelling to Kenya have both hit record highs. Cultural exchanges between the two countries are showing unprecedented vitality.
For a long time in history, China and Africa had shared a same fate, always respected each other, helped each other, treated each other as equals. Sixty years ago, when independence movement swept across Africa, Chinese people fought together with African people to help the continent gain independence and liberation.
A wave of African countries established diplomatic relations with China later on. Now, China and Africa are joining hands to seek development and enhance people's happiness, and are closely cooperating on the international arena to safeguard the interests of developing countries.
At present, development is still the most urgent task for Africa. The African Union's "2063 Agenda" is defining industrialisation as a core goal of Africa. As a country with a relatively sound economic foundation in sub-Saharan Africa, Kenya is actively working to transform its economy, having released the "Vision 2030" and "Four Development Goals" which seek to modernise its industrial and agricultural sectors.
Since the launch of the Belt and Road Initiative, the initiative has received positive response from African countries. The government and all walks of life in Kenya are especially interested and active to participate in the initiative.
The Chairman of the AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, has said that Africa needs to strengthen cooperation with outsiders to advance its development agenda. The implementation of the “Belt and Road Initiative” will further promote China-Africa cooperation, helping Africa to develop.
Kenyan President, Foreign Minister, Minister of Communications and other officials have repeatedly said that Kenya is optimistic about the future of the “Belt and Road”. Kenya is willing to align its development strategy with the Belt and Road Initiative to realize win-win cooperation.
Kenyan scholars and the media also believe that the Belt and Road Initiative is far-reaching and the concept of cooperative development is in line with African realities. China-Africa capacity and connectivity building under the framework of the “Belt and Road Initiative” is not only related to the welfare of one-third of the world's population, but also a major opportunity to modernise Africa.
With the opening of the Mombasa-Nairobi Railway, Kenya and the African community are paying more and more attention to the “Belt and Road”, and their hope to benefit from China’s new round of opening-up is obvious.
In April this year, a poll released by Paris-based consulting firm Ipsos Group showed that China’s influence in Kenya had exceeded that of the United States for the first time, becoming the most trusted partner of the Kenyan people.
Both the history and the current interaction between China and Kenya are telling us that there are plenty of reasons for the China-Kenya relationship to become a model in the wider China-Africa relations.
The China-Africa Cooperation Forum Summit meeting will be held in Beijing next month. The leaders of China and Africa will once again meet in the Chinese capital to review the cooperation results after the Johannesburg Summit in 2015, work out a blueprint for cooperation in the new era, and discuss major initiatives as part of a broader plan to create a China-Africa Community of Shared Future. Through this summit, China-Kenya cooperation is surely to also bear new fruits.
"Those who share similar goals and ambitions can’t be separated by mountains and oceans," President Xi Jinping once said when he described the China-Africa relations. Xi has called on the Chinese people to "roll up their sleeves and work harder". Meanwhile, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has called on his people to Harambee, which means 'to unite and move forward'.
The practice and achievements of the “Belt and Road Initiative” in Kenya have fully proved that in a globalised era, the interests of all countries are deeply intertwined, and there are opportunities and platforms for mutual development.
Against the backdrop of rising protectionism, unilateralism and other anti-globalisation trends, the Belt and Road Initiative, China’s wisdom and China’s solutions have become an important international public good that benefits all parties.
To achieve "rebalancing" in a more inclusive way has also become an important practice in building a new type of international relationship and a community of common for humankind.
At present, the China-Kenya relations are standing at a new starting point, showing broad and bright prospects. China will work with Kenya and other African countries to enhance the well-beings of humans, and to deepen the construction of the “Belt and Road Initiative” to jointly tackle the challenges ahead.
China, Kenya and other African countries will continue to promote opening-up, communication and integration among countries in a larger scope, with higher standards and at deeper levels, so as to facilitate the cause of modernisation in Africa, reinforce the China-Africa friendship, advance the comprehensive strategic partnership between China and Kenya as well as the relationship between China and Africa to a higher level.
The writer is the Ambassador of China to Kenya