INVESTING IN TRADE

All hands on deck for the Belt and Road Forum

In Summary

• For Kenya, the fruits of the BRI have already seen the light of day through the standard gauge railway.

• There are plenty of spillover effects that have come about as a result of the successful operation of the Mombasa-Nairobi SGR.

Chinese President Xi Jinping makes a toast at the beginning of the welcoming banquet at the Great Hall of the People during the first day of the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, China, May 14, 2017.
TO THE FUTURE: Chinese President Xi Jinping makes a toast at the beginning of the welcoming banquet at the Great Hall of the People during the first day of the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, China, May 14, 2017.

The second Belt and Road Forum in China is an opportune moment to gauge the perceptions of the much-publicised Belt and Road Initiative.

The BRI aims to boost trade through investment in ports, power plants and other infrastructure in more than 80 counties across Asia, Europe and Africa.

But China has been accused of saddling countries with debts that they would otherwise not afford to pay back. Western European diplomats have heavily criticised the initiative for favouring Chinese companies and aiming to propagate Beijing’s geopolitical goals of influence.

Despite sharp criticism, notably from the US, China has proved to be renowned in the field of construction of high-end infrastructure which has, in turn, set them apart as “Men of Action”.

A country like Cambodia, for example, which has a similar population and economic growth index as Kenya, has shown tremendous growth in the infrastructural realm, leading to a gradual increase in GDP.

All these developments have been attributed to Cambodia embracing and implementing the BRI within its borders, hence, boosting its economic growth even further.

For Kenya, the fruits of the BRI have already seen the light of day through the standard gauge railway, which is currently operational and on its second phase of construction.

The SGR should not be treated in isolation as a stand-alone initiative meant to revolutionise Kenya’s economy. There are plenty of spillover effects that have come about as a result of the successful operation of the Mombasa-Nairobi SGR.

Nairobi and towns such as Voi and Emali have opened up their borders as internationally recognised tourist attraction boasting of a comprehensive railway system that runs from the coastal town of Mombasa all the way to the majestic Nairobi National Park and its rich environs.

This is the first project of its kind in more than 100 years that has been able to connect and devolve the transport industry while at the same time boosting tourism and the growth of towns.

The SGR aside, Kenya can use channels from states that are in support of the BRI as a platform to improve other necessities and to achieve integrated development in the whole society.

On matters irrigation, Kenya can borrow a leaf from China. The Three Gorges Dam, a reputable hydroelectric gravity dam that spans the Yangtze River, is set to act as a catchment area to store and provide enough water for subsistence and agricultural needs of the Chinese people as well as act as a source of hydroelectric power.

Coupling the dam's 32 main turbines with two smaller generators to power the plant itself, the total electric generating capacity of the dam is 22,500 MW.

If Kenya chooses to embark on a similar dam project, once successful, the country will not only be able to support agriculture by providing constant food supply for the more than 40 million Kenyans, but also provide an alternative to the shortage of power supply.

The generation of hydroelectric power will also come in handy for the future electrification of the SGR. Kenya will consequently kick out drought and famine and more emphasis will then be laid on the type of crops to be grown to sustain Kenyans' livelihoods.

With the abundant resources and the rapidly growing infrastructure, the future looks bright for Kenya as we look to solve the issues hindering economic growth and development and enhance regional growth through trade.

Press and PR executive for external relations and cooperation, China Communications Construction Company, Ltd. [email protected]