Growth in Kenyan imports from China can be attributed to the expanding infrastructure in the country owing to its engagement with the Belt and Road Initiative. The trade balance, however, favours China as Kenya’s imports from China stand at 97 per cent, while its exports to the Asian nation are around 3 per cent only.
China has become a leading bilateral creditor to Kenya. It represents about 67 per cent of its external debt.
In addition to imports, the involvement of several Chinese companies in infrastructure development projects in Kenya has played a major role in enhancing bilateral engagement. Among these, is a Chinese state-owned company named “M/s China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC)”. The Hong Kong Post reported that the company is frequently in the news for the wrong reasons.
The company is involved in various infrastructure projects in China. It is, however, facing backlash for its corrupt practices and discrimination against the locals. The company is constructing Western Ring Road Project in Kenya which is being criticized for its high cost and plans to charge exorbitant tolls from the Kenyans.
The CRBC is expected to earn dividends worth USD 977 million and other incomes from the mega road.
CRBC has formed another subsidiary by the name of Africa Star Railway Operation Company Limited (AFRISTAR) to work on the railway infrastructure in the region. The company developed the communications and information system for the Standard Gauge Railway of Kenyan Railway (KR) Corporation, The Hong Kong Post reported.
The pressure tactics employed by the CRBC are making other Kenyan departments suffer as well. A contract had been awarded to the company by the Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) for water, sewer extensions and street lighting in its area. The decision is now haunting the civic authority as CRBC has not progressed in most parts of the project, the report said.
According to The Hong Kong Post, the Kenyan public is increasingly wary of the work ethics, morals and environmental practices of the Chinese companies working in the country.
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Recently, Ethiopia-based publication The Reporter said that China is taking a new approach to Africa which prioritizes FDI over loans, small and medium-sized businesses over large ones, and green development over carbon emissions.
The report says: “According to a study undertaken by Chatham House, a renowned policy institute based in London, China is moving away from a high-volume and high-risk model of investment in Africa to one where deals are struck on their own merits, at a smaller and more manageable scale than before.”