Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi is set to visit Kenya following Nairobi relying on Chinese loans to develop infrastructure and is facing rising debts.
Describing the visit as “historic”, the Kenyan foreign ministry said, talks between the two countries would revolve around security, climate change, health, and green technology. Bilateral agreements on the transfer of technology would also be discussed.
China has lent African countries billions of dollars as part of its BRI project, including $5 billion for the construction of a modern railway from the Kenyan port of Mombasa.
China’s BRI has been a debt trap for many countries before the onset of the pandemic, with Sri Lanka being a case in point. The BRI model has come under strain after the Coronavirus-induced COVID-19 pandemic has decimated economies leading to rising backlash.
China is shifting from hard infrastructure loans to efforts to boost trade.
Among the critics of Kenya’s reliance on Chinese funding is Kimani Ichung’wah, a ruling party lawmaker.
“It is a debt trap and they should start renegotiating,” said Ichung’wah while adding, the interest rates on Chinese loans was exorbitant.
Ichung’wah is backing William Ruto, estranged deputy to President Uhuru Kenyatta, to take over the presidency in an election scheduled for August, and said that if Ruto won his government would seek new terms for the loan repayments.
According to Lina Benabdallah, an expert on China-Africa relations at Wake Forest University in the United States, Wang’s visit signalled Beijing’s interest in restoring stability to the Horn and in improving access to Africa via Eritrea’s Red Sea ports.
Yi’s visit to the country is significant said Peter Kagwanja, a professor of international relations at the University of Nairobi, since it is linked to trade interests. The
Indian Ocean archipelago sits on the rim of a maritime trade route known in China as the Maritime Silk Road; it is considered strategically important to Beijing, said Kagwanja.