• Regardless of infection status, all countries are already affected – China is the world’s second-largest economy, whatever stirs its economy reverberates globally.
• Over 400 Chinese enterprises currently employ more than 50,000 Kenyans; the picture is already grim even with zero infections in the country.
Disturbing footage of Kenyans confronting two Chinese over coronavirus outbreak has been doing rounds in social media.
The incident, though isolated, risks fomenting fear and racial profiling of the Chinese community in Kenya even as the country stays on the edge over the COVID-19 disease.
So far, Kenya has no confirmed cases of the disease. In addition, in the African countries where the virus has been reported, the infection path has been traced back to Europe.
There is no denying that potential entry of the disease has caused understandable anxiety among Kenyans. It is also true that the virus was first reported in China. However, antagonising people based on their nationality is not a rational ingredient in the fight against the disease.
In this era of intense globalisation, disease pandemics remain an existential threat to all countries. Coronavirus has, for instance, been reported across all the continents. Both strong and weak countries have come under its spell.
Furthermore, regardless of their infection status, all countries are already affected by the disease. China is the world’s second-largest economy and a veritable engine for global growth. Whatever stirs the Chinese economy reverberates globally.
With reported deaths reported in the United States, experts predict that the coming weeks may see reduced economic activities in the hotspots; thereby putting an additional strain on the global economy.
Here in Kenya, the supply of essential commodities sourced from China is already in decline. Kenya Airways has estimated losing up to Sh800 million per week as a result of cancelled flights to China. Small businesses are staring at huge loses and potential closure. This may lead to loss of livelihoods for thousands of struggling Kenyans while consumers will have to contend with an increased cost of living.
Given that China is Kenya’s leading investor, constructor, development projects financier and trade partner, a dip in the Chinese economy will eventually affect our economy.
Add the potential impact of the disease on the 400 Chinese enterprises that currently employ more than 50,000 Kenyans and the picture is already grim even with zero infections in the country.
Kenyans should, therefore, not fall into the trap of violence, stigmatisation or other forms of discrimination against the Chinese or any other nationalities in the country. Doing so will amount to weaponising a calamity that has zero regards for nationality, race or geographical space.
Instead of using the adversity to spread hate, Kenyans should extend a compassionate hand to China. Any discourse on the outbreak should be guided by scientific facts rather than lapsing into racial sweet-spots.
Should the disease be reported in Kenya, China remains one of the partners Kenya can work with to lessen the severity of the afflictions. This has been proven among the infected countries including Iran, South Korea and Japan.
The writer is an International Relations Scholar and Belt and Road Tourism Ambassador