• In the past 20 years, several top-class infrastructure projects have been funded and built under the China Belt initiative.
• One of the biggest projects under this initiative is the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway, a flagship project of Kenya's Vision 2030
James Kamotho, 78, could not locate Utali Collage on Thika Road when he returned to the city for his granddaughter's wedding for the first time since he left the city in 1999.
This is despite having worked at the college for 26 years as a guard.
"The road is too big and smooth. The underpasses and all those lanes made me think we were in a First World. I could not believe this was the same Thika Road I left 20 years ago," Kamotho said.
John Ngige, a real estate investor, has all praises for road projects built courtesy of the Kenya-China partnership.
"In the 1990s, Nairobi residents avoided renting along the narrow and dilapidated Thika Road due to huge traffic snarl-ups. I am a great beneficiary of the super highway. My two flats in Kahawa Wendani are full," Ngige said.
Similar testimonies are shared by Janet Akello, a vegetable vendor who travelled from Nairobi to Mombasa for the first time via the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR).
"I have never gone to Mombasa via a bus since then. The rail project has added great value to my indigenous vegetable business. I now transport 10 to 15 bags daily. I could only manage a maximum of three by bus," Akello told this writer.
The road is too big and smooth. The underpasses and all those lanes made me think we were in a First World. I could not believe this was the same Thika Road I left 20 years agoJames Kamotho
After the end of the late former President Daniel Moi's 24-year rule, his successor, the late Mwai Kibaki opted to look East for infrastructural funding and partnerships.
Since then, China has become Kenya's key social economic partner, ending decades-long dominance by European nations and the United States.
This has seen Kenya build several transformational infrastructures, the first one being the Thika Super Highway, the Sh32 billion road project completed by Chinese firms China Wu Yi, Sinohydro Corporation and Sheng Li Engineering Construction.
An economic think tank recently estimated the total economic value of Thika Super Highway at close to Sh5 trillion, especially due to the lucrative real estate that has flourished along the highway in the past 15 years.
It has also eased traffic, opening several regions for social economic growth that has seen thousands of people employed and aided traders to bring services closer to customers.
Josphat Kiberenge, a khat farmer in Meru county, says the highway has eased the cost of doing business and his products are hitting his primary market in Nairobi's Eastleigh in record time.
"Generally, Kenya has greatly benefited from the partnership with China. Our roads are dazzling. Economic activities have sprouted in the last two decades or so," Kiberenge said.
In the past 20 years, several other top-class infrastructure projects have been funded and built under the China Belt initiative.
Sometimes referred to as the New Silk Road, BRI is one of the most ambitious infrastructure projects ever conceived.
Launched in 2013 by President Xi Jinping, the vast collection of development and investment initiatives was originally devised to link East Asia and Europe through physical infrastructure.
In the decade since, the project has expanded to Africa, Oceania and Latin America, significantly broadening China’s economic and political influence.
One of the biggest projects under this initiative is the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway, a flagship project of Kenya's Vision 2030, which cost about $3.8 billion (Sh475 billion), 90 per cent of which was funded by the Export-Import Bank of China and the remainder by the Kenyan government.
The railroad, which is 472km long, is in line with the shared principle of building an ecological civilisation that balances development and environmental protection, as 14 wildlife channels were built over the 120km, part of the line crossing through Kenya's Tsavo National Park.
Its impact has been immense. The rail line has integrated a transportation network in East Africa, created about 46,000 jobs for local people, enhanced bilateral economic and trade development, and advanced cultural exchanges between China and Kenya.
The Nairobi-Naivasha rail route, which totals 120km and was built at a cost of $1.48 billion (Sh185 billion), according to Kenya's State Department of Transport and Infrastructure, will facilitate Africa's industrialisation as well as the economic prosperity of areas along the railway.
The latest survey by Research Gate shows the country's Gross Domestic Product grew by 1.5 per cent as an after-effect of the SGR project.
It has so far driven Kenya's economic growth by creating 46,000 jobs for local residents.
In addition, the BRI has led to the construction of about 115 km of road bypasses in Nairobi, the 27.1-km Nairobi Expressway, the 453 km Lamu-Garissa Road and 300km of informal settlement roads in Nairobi.
These roads have effectively reduced traffic jams and boosted regional economic development through the convenient movement of goods and services across the country.
Regarding port projects, the Mombasa Port's berth and storage yard projects will improve traffic flow at the port, while the Kipevu Oil Terminal will improve the efficiency of oil transportation in Kenya.
Furthermore, the Likoni Floating Bridge and the Makupa Bridge, which cost $60 million to build, have improved pedestrian and motorcycle movement and ensured safety.
In line with the BRI agreements, Kenya is committed to promoting a free trade regime in an open world economy, while embracing the trends toward a multipolar world, economic globalisation and cultural diversity.
Kenya and China, through the BRI, have agreed to continue to strengthen cooperation under the principle of wide consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits.
Through the agreements, the two partners are committed to the ideals of globalisation in a world increasingly resorting to anti-globalisation tendencies, such as protectionism and isolationism.
"While traditional partners wrote off Africa as a "hopeless continent", China chose to invest in developing Africa's huge potential as a resource-rich frontier and future market," diplomatic and economic analyst Jared Kiio told the Star.
He adds that China became a friend and partner with no strings attached. China is now focused on building a community with a shared future for mankind.
China describes the initiative as a vehicle for achieving infrastructure, policy, trade, financial and people-to-people connectivity to create new drivers of shared development.
Already, at least 52 out of the 55 member states of the African Union now participate in the BRI. Worldwide, close to 150 countries and 40 international organisations had signed more than 200 cooperation documents with China to jointly build the Belt and Road.
Reflecting on the success of China's reform and opening up since 1978, the BRI has greatly inspired Africa.
Putting the BRI into context, China has supported Africa by constructing about 100,000km of roads, more than 10,000 km of railways, almost 100 ports and numerous hospitals and schools, as noted by State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi in March during the fifth session of the 13th National People's Congress in Beijing.
By achieving these development milestones, the BRI has aligned its vision and mission with that of the African Union's Agenda 2063 and specific visions of countries, such as Kenya's Vision 2030.
Apart from funding, Kenya has benefitted immensely from Chinese building technologies, known to be durable, faster and affordable.
The use of prefab technology in construction is proving to be 25 per cent cheaper, 30 per cent faster and 40 per cent more durable than conventional building technics.
For instance, all those barriers on Thika Super Highway, Nairobi Express Way and even SGR were made using prefabricated technology.