China-Kenya ties: FOCAC’s game changer in save for graft

In Summary

• Globalization puts Africa in an interesting space that affords African countries both opportunities and challenges.

• China has emerged, as the new kid on the block, with the greatest promise to many developing countries and particularly, African countries.

Deputy President William during talks with Chinese Ambassador to Kenya Wu Peng, Karen office, Nairobi County on Thursday, May 22, 2019.
Deputy President William during talks with Chinese Ambassador to Kenya Wu Peng, Karen office, Nairobi County on Thursday, May 22, 2019.
Image: DPPS

Recent revelations of grand corruption in SGR land compensation puts Kenya’s efforts to bridge the infrastructural deficit in jeopardy.

In the world that is becoming increasingly global, both the West and the East might find ourselves shunning infrastructural projects in Kenya because of the cost of corruption in financing mega projects.

African countries and Kenya to be precise remind us of the proverbial young beautiful girl who, as a frail teenager was dumped by a childhood suitor for being less attractive.


However, as the girl developed into puberty, her beautiful curves; an African woman curves, got the attention of a serious and concerned suitor who started showing interests and appreciating the girl for who she was and not what she ought to have been.

The advances and concerns of the new suitor ultimately bring back the childhood suitor who comes dangling goodies; unfortunately for the old suitor, it is too little too late in the global village where relations between nations are defined by current realities rather than historical nexus.

Indeed, globalization puts Africa in an interesting space that affords African countries both opportunities and challenges: Challenges because globalization is inherently exploitative as it exists in a world that is capitalistic yet economically divided.

The argument herein is that wealthy and technologically powerful nations benefit more in a globalized world than the poor nations.

Opportunities because the emerging and on-going multilateral trend in the globalisation of the local and localization of the global provides what Marwan Kraidy describes as a world where the dual forces of globalization and localization, cohesion and dispersal, disjuncture and mixture, capture transnational and trans-cultural dialects.

Therefore, the traditional periphery nations need of necessity to engage in the transcultural dialectics with economic powerhouses in such a manner that will allow the commercial goods and services from less powerful economies be globalized or, simply put, accelerate the ascendance of the developing nations to the global space. This cannot happen if we don’t deal with runaway corruption.

In fact, true to Marwan Kraidy’s hybridity, countries all over the world are increasingly seen to capitulate to the seduction of otherness and not necessarily mutating or renewing their identity.


To this end, the emergent space should be celebrated as it provides a plurality of bilateral engagements which pushes nation states to leverage on the bilateral agreements as they seek better returns on such agreements.

On this global space, countries are increasingly well positioned to assess the big players in the global economy and chose who to work with in different sectors such as technology, infrastructure, trade and most importantly knowledge transfer.

China has emerged, as the new kid on the block, with the greatest promise to many developing countries and particularly, African countries.

However, revelations of corruption and the attendant blame on China with debt trap and weaponized loans narratives that camouflage corruption, it is just about time and we will be on our own.

China’s emergence, as Former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, avers is now a reality and not some colourful phrase in political leaders’ speeches.

And it gives African countries and generally the global south the rare opportunity of choosing what to engage in and how to engage with the traditional ‘big brothers.’ Essentially, the inherent space ushered in by China appears to be providing a nuanced yet interesting opportunity for African nations to globalized the local.

FOCAC summit, particularly, provides Kenya and other African countries with a greater opportunity to usher in a new era of economic and trade relations between China and Africa on the one hand and Africa and the Western powers on the other.

Unlike the bilateral engagements between Kenya and individual powerful nations in the West, FOCAC provides a platform with the potential to reach a wider market.

Moreover, FOCAC’s consultative and follow up mechanisms provide an enduring multilateral framework that our countries can tap on to maximize on the global dialectics.

But perhaps, more importantly, are the FOCAC follow up mechanisms and how these mechanisms can easily address the trade imbalance and anchor a win-win situation for both China and African countries.

Set up in 2002 as structures to lead the implementation of the FOCAC meetings, the follow up mechanisms, are built at three levels and inescapably if African ministers and senior technocrats get to business we can reap big from FOCAC, especially against the backdrop of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The first level of the follow-up mechanism is the Ministerial conference, held every three years and attended by foreign ministers and ministers in charge of international economic cooperation. At such a high level of engagement, this first level mechanism easily lends itself to addressing such emergent issues propagated by the west like weaponized loans, skewed trade and lack of access to Chinese markets that threaten China Africa relationships.

African ministers who have the privilege of co-chairing these follow up mechanisms are at a pedestal position to champion for the African cause and articulate FOCAC’s programs with the African interests at the core.

Kenya, as a vibrant agriculture-based economy should essentially be pushing for our agricultural based processed products to hit the Chinese markets and those of China’s other associates like Russia, Brazil and India who are members of BRICS.

The Senior Officials Follow-up Meeting and the Senior Officials Preparatory Meeting as the second level, is even more crucial as it involves the senior officials who meet in the year and a few days before the ministerial conference to set the grounds for the ministers and the frameworks of follow up.

The fact that these meetings are held alternately in China and in an African country and are co-chaired by ministers from both China and Africa puts African technocrats at a fairly well poised position to not only leverage on the engagements, but also address engagements and bilateral agreements that are not productive, or better still work on instituting additional frameworks that would serve the interest of the common citizens in Africa just as it benefits the common citizens in China.

This second level coupled with the third follow up mechanism which entails consultations between the African Diplomatic Corps in China and the Secretariat of the Chinese Follow-up Committee held at least twice a year heralds a refreshing space provided by China. A space that can essentially play a big role in catapulting agile African nations to the global space.

The trade imbalance between Kenya and china, occasioned by the globalized market and the differences in economic and industrial structure if situated broadly can easily be addressed at these consultative and follow up mechanism forums.