Chinese Diplomat Explains Why Foreign Investors Prefer Kenya

Zhou Pingjian and William Ruto
Chinese ambassador to Kenya Zhou Pingjian meeting with President William Ruto at State House on December 20, 2022.

Chinese Ambassador to Kenya Zhou Pingjian on September 1, 2023, refuted claims that China has tied Kenya up in a debt trap stating that the two countries have a symbiotic relationship.

In an interview, the diplomat asserted that Kenya selected China out of a long list of potential investors due to the favorable terms they were offering.

He challenged the debt trap argument clarifying that loans offered to Kenya are a form of external capital meant for development projects.

“As far as I know, the so-called "debt trap" narrative lacks credibility in Kenya. China's financing in Kenya is based on the development projects in the Kenya Vision 2030 plan,” Pingjian stated.

The Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) train readies for takeoff.
The Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) train readies for takeoff at the Nairobi terminus.
Photo: Kenya Railways

Emphasizing on the government's choice of China as an investor he said, "The reason behind this is that Chinese financing brings project implementation and provides Kenya with the most fair and reasonable financing arrangements within its capacity."

According to Pingjian, both countries have had a strong relationship since the 1400s inspiring Kenyans' confidence in China's developmental plans for the country.

The ambassador also dismissed the idea of neo-colonialism, that he claimed was propagated by Western media, stressing that China was only interested in being a part of the Kenya’s evolution and progress through projects such as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), that aims to improve global connectivity and trade in Africa, Asia and Europe.

In Kenya, the Standard Gauge Railway(SGR) was the first flagship project under the BRI. It drew a lot of criticism from people who questioned Chinese lending practices and claimed that the Asian country was taking advantage of Kenya.

Similarly, China’s new BRI projects have been put on the spot because they are mostly financed by Chinese commercial loans, raising concerns that borrowing countries such as Kenya will become vulnerable to debt distress.

Nonetheless that has not deterred the government, with President Ruto reaffirming his commitment to the BRI earlier this year.

In a meeting with China’s top diplomat Wang Yi, the president said that he aims to work with China to upgrade roads, Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and Mombasa and Lamu ports.

"Investment in this sector will spur economic growth and create jobs for the people under our Bottom-Up Economic Transformation Agenda," he said.

Diplomat Yi, on his part, stated that his country would prioritize the government’s interests.

An Image of a cargo clearance officer supervising clearance at Mombasa port
An Image of a cargo clearance officer supervising clearance at Mombasa port