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China’s gift to Kenya’s parliament disappears from shipping container that arrived empty

August 01, 2019 at 08:24 am | News

Ismail Akwei

Ismail Akwei | Contributor

August 01, 2019 at 08:24 am | News

Uhuru kenyatta and wife's visit to China -- Photo: PRC

The Chinese embassy in Kenya has expressed shock at the disappearance of office equipment donated by the government to Kenya’s parliament which arrived in the East African country this week.

According to a statement from the “shocked” embassy, the shipping container of electronic equipment arrived empty at Kenya’s parliament, cited Reuters. Kenya’s parliament officials have declined to comment.

An investigation has been launched by the Kenyan police into the disappearance of the equipment whose value has not been given.

Kenya is one of the main beneficiaries of China which is deepening its relationship with African nations to boost its economic standing. In recent years, China invested in the railway linking Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, to the coast and the megacity that will be based in Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

The East African country recently failed to obtain a loan of more than $3.6 billion to finance the railway between the cities of Naivasha and Kisumu, then to Uganda to boost trade in the sub-region.

In his latest visit to Beijing for the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) forum, Uhuru Kenyatta had hoped to secure funding for the extension of the Chinese-built Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) project.

Instead, the government secured only Sh40 billion (about 395 million dollars) to revive an old meter gauge line to enhance the movement of goods from the dry Port of Naivasha to Western Kenya and other East African countries.

Kenya, in May 2014, entered into a deal to borrow $3.233 billion loan from China’s Exim Bank to build a 385km modern railway between the port city of Mombasa and the capital, Nairobi.

The Mombasa-Nairobi SGR project is meant to replace the meter gauge railway that was constructed more than 100 years ago during the British colonial rule. It is part of China’s Belt and Road initiative of massive global infrastructure projects, said the BBC.

According to a report by the Daily Nation, the five-year grace period given by the China Exim bank comes to an end this year. “Taxpayers will from June cough out Sh56.7 billion [about $600 million] or 0.7 per cent of the economy to the Chinese for funding the Nairobi Mombasa leg of the SGR,” the report added.

China has refused to lend Kenya more money towards the expansion of the project because the Mombasa-Nairobi leg of the project is not performing well as expected, experts say.

“China has realised that it has got into projects all over the world without due diligence so it has decided to take a keener look on its loan portfolio,” Robert Shaw, a public finance and policy expert was quoted by the Daily Nation.

Kenyans have, however, raised concerns about China’s footprint across the country. Many have blamed China for stealing local jobs, adding that Chinese investment brings racism and racial discrimination, and could saddle the country with uncontrollable debt.

Last October, President Kenyatta questioned why some Kenyans only focus on debt owed to China while there are other states that have lent money to the country.

“Why are we focusing ourselves only on one lender?” Kenyatta asked in an interview with CNN.

“As far as I am concerned, we have a very healthy mix of debt from the multilateral lenders – who are basically the World Bank and the African Development Bank – to bilateral lenders like Japan, China, France, all who are participating and working with us to help us achieve our objectives,” he added.

“We have an infrastructure gap that we need to fill and we are going to work with our partners across the globe who are willing to partner and to work with us.”

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