Nairobi Expressway Opening Sparks Debate In China

  • Nairobi Expressway project near Chiromo road interchange
    Nairobi Expressway project near Chiromo Road interchange
    Moja Expressway
  • The trial-based opening of the 27-Kilometre Nairobi Expressway on Saturday, May 14, ignited heated conversations in China after a number of publications posted their reviews. 

    An article posted on South China Morning Post on Saturday, May 14, titled "Nairobi tollway an example of China’s new belt and road financing approach in Africa" hailed the Ksh88 billion project but also pointed out the measures taken by China to safeguard its financing of projects. 

    "Chinese lenders have become more cautious in financing infrastructure projects on the continent, concerned about borrowers’ ability to repay loans," read a tagline from the South China Morning Post. 

    The Nairobi East toll station of Nairobi Expressway.
    The Nairobi East toll station of Nairobi Expressway.
    Daily Nation

    Further, another article published by China Daily titled "Chinese-built expressway to boost Kenya's tourism sector: official" noted that the expressway was a shot in the arm for the country's economy. 

    The publication quoted Tourism CS Najib Balala when he pointed out that the expressway would ensure seamless connectivity. 

    "We want tourists to enjoy a seamless travel experience from their arrival so as to enhance their tourism experience in Kenya," read a part of the publication. 

    The conversation took to social media as a number of Chinese weighed in on the matter with some lauding the mega-project while others cautioned the Kenyan government over the debt diplomacy factor.

    "Africa is basically sold to China. It's very naive to think that they sympathize with African societies and disinterestedly want to help them develop. They expect profit and search for cheap labor. Now they invest, soon they'll demand effects. I wonder how will Africa be like Asian-style colonialism?" one user posted. 

    Others cautioned the Kenyan government not to approach the same debt levels as Sri Lanka which excessively borrowed from China in order to build infrastructure with some projects ending up as white elephants.

    Currently, the country, heavily indebted to China is struggling to pay the loan. Some users held opinions that China should refrain from financing foreign projects. 

    "China should stop financing any country where the citizens are going to turn around to blame China for its economic woes. China should just look after itself."

    Tim Chun-tao, a user opined that the project could end up being a double-edged sword for the Chinese government. 

    "When China lends... They call it a money trap... When they lend less they call it overly cautious," he stated. 

    On the other hand, the Kenyan government also received a lot of praise for its infrastructural development. 

    "It’s an amazing belt and road in Nairobi! Africa should stand by great China in this world now."

    "Excellent progress in Africa! We need to hear more.. Thank China for helping the much neglected African continent to progress!" user Brendan Kai stated. 

    The expressway was built by China Road and Bridge Corporation and tasked Moja Expressway company with managing the road for 27 years, under a Public-Private Partnership (PPP). 

    President Uhuru Kenyatta accompanied by Transport CS James Macharia and NMS Director General Mohamed Badi in December 2021.
    President Uhuru Kenyatta accompanied by Transport CS James Macharia and NMS Director General Mohamed Badi in December 2021.
    PSCU