By Uhuru Kenyatta
China is an ancient civilisation, a rising nation and Kenya’s ally of long standing.
So, it is with great pleasure that I, on behalf of the people of Kenya, welcome the visit of the Prime
Minister of the People’s Republic of China, His Excellency Li Keqiang.
Premier Li’s visit coincides with the anniversary of a historic visit to Africa by His Excellency Zhou Enlai,
one of the great leaders of the last century —remembered in Africa, and elsewhere, as a statesman of wit and subtlety, remarkable administrative ability and outstanding foresight.
Zhou Enlai brought a timely revolutionary message,stressing Asia and Africa’s common struggles
against imperialism and colonialism.
He reminded us that it was also our shared objective to slay the dragons of poverty and underdevelopment.
Premier Li’s tour of Africa builds on this most distinguished foundation, and will deepen the friendship between our two peoples, which dates back to the 15th century, but also takes in the most modern forms of assistance and co-operation.
Our talks, and the agreements we reached, covered a variety of matters, but allow me to mention just three: the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), the protection of our national heritage and our region’s
peace and security.
Yesterday, we witnessed the signing of various instruments that will kick-start agreements we concluded in Beijing last year — notably the loan
instruments that will facilitate the development of the SGR.
Kenya and China’s partnership in the development of the Standard Gauge Railway line will not only revolutionise the economy of our region, it will also reaffirm Kenya’s status as the region’s transport and
The colonialists laid the existing single-track railway line shortly after the turn of the 19th century.
Today, it is an obsolete anachronism.
The Standard Gauge Railway that we will jointly develop not only alerts the world to the fact that Kenya can now chart its own development path; it also makes it self-evident that we have a new and able partner in our
march to the progress and prosperity that the future holds.
With the implementation of this and other flagship projects in co-operation with Chinese public and
private partners, China has secured a place of honour in the history of Kenya’s economic development.
I wish also to commend Premier Li’s continued support and cooperation in our effort to combat and eventually eliminate the illegal trade in ivory as well as in our other initiatives to preserve our natural
I am particularly pleased to note that we shall witness the exchange of notes between our governments, which will aid the establishment of
our Owning the Night initiative in wildlife protection. China’s assistance is most opportune.
To realise our common objective of shared prosperity, we will need to deepen our trade and investment ties.
A critical lesson we have drawn
from China’s remarkable growth over the last three decades is that prosperity is achievable with proper
planning and prudent investment.
My government is committed to making Kenya the manufacturing and technology hub of Africa.
We will achieve this by putting in place appropriate investments, policies and reforms, the better to
enhance our business environment, and to make Kenya both the first choice of outside investors, and
the home of the most energetic local entrepreneurs.
An immediate step we can take here is one we agreed at our talks yesterday — we agreed on the
urgency of convening a Bilateral Advisory Council.
When adopted, the council will provide an ideal forum for constant and fruitful engagement at every
level — most especially in the implementation,monitoring and evaluation of the various initiatives
and agreements we have concluded so far.
Kenya and China’s venerable friendship has reliably yielded mutual advantage.
China also, as we all recognise, possesses substantial political,
diplomatic and financial assets, which, if fully applied, would be a game-changer in the region’s
peace and security effort.
That is why we seek a deeper engagement with China on matters of peace and security.
Our talks centred on issues of critical importance, and particularly on Somalia and South Sudan.
The intervention by AMISOM has stabilised the situation in Somalia, and is rapidly easing the Somali government’s extension of its control over its territory, while limiting acts of piracy along the East
IGAD recently achieved a substantial success in South Sudan, when under its auspices, the leaders of the main contending parties, President Salva Kiir and Dr Riek Machar, agreed on a peace deal.
In both those cases, the help and support of China has been invaluable.
We discussed how best we could build on these achievements going forward.
We are confident that in the coming days, the partnership between Kenya and China will continue to flourish.
— The author is the President of Kenya, and current Chairman of the East African Community
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