By Raila OdingaÂ [Beijing, China]
It is a great honour for me to join this distinguished gathering of business leaders at the Tenth Eminent Chinese Entrepreneur Congress.
China has in the last ten years made significant presence in Kenya as investors, development support group and as charity workers.
China Africa Project Hope is making real difference in our country by investing in schools, thereby investing directly in our future.
Today, China is both Kenya’s biggest source of foreign direct investment and the third largest trading partner.
China has also undertaken a series of infrastructure projects, and some infrastructure projects are still under construction. Those projects have, no doubt, spurred and continue to spur Kenya’s social and economic development.
In the areas of culture and people-to-people exchanges, the enduring engagement between the peoples of China and Kenya has served as solid bedrock for our bilateral relations.
For half a century, the contacts between the Communist Party of China and Kenya’s main political parties have grown more frequent and much closer.
In recent years, Kenya has become a household name in China, just has China become in Kenya. More than 100 thousand Chinese tourists have visited Kenya to savor the beauty and splendor of our country. Besides, China has provided government scholarships for more than 200 Kenyan students every passing year. All these efforts have won public recognition.
China has been willing to share her experiences with Kenya where and when necessary, so as to make our shared dreams come true. I therefore feel at home here, and I am glad to share with you some areas for more cooperation.
Kenya is in the fifth year of implementing a new constitution promulgated in 2010.
We are in the second year of implementing what is undoubtedly the most transformative provision of the constitution and that is Devolution.
Devolution has created 47 semi-autonomous political and economic entities that have made Kenya virtually a virgin land in terms of investment opportunities.
With Devolution, Kenya is embracing what nations like China, Germany, India, the UK, among others long realized; that a nation is better served through a decentralized political and economic system that creates many centres of production and decision making.
So Kenya wants to retain Nairobi as its equivalent to Beijing here but also create other centres of economic activity as in shanghai, Guangzhou, Shantou, Tianjin, Wenzhou, among others. We are seeking to create an economy firing truly on all cylinders.
That has opened investment opportunities in healthcare sector, which is fully devolved, agriculture, tourism, ICT, financial services, infrastructure development and education among other areas, in all parts of the country.
Agriculture has the highest potential for most of the counties. There are opportunities in large-scale irrigation for high value crops like soybeans, fruits, floriculture, horticulture, rice and sugar cane.
We are also looking for investments in value chain development in this sector and agro processing factories.
Soybeans in particular have great potential in western Kenya, which produces 50 per cent of the soybeans in Kenya.
Kenya has capacity to absorb unto 150,000 metric tones of soybeans annually. The country consumes about 400,000 metric tones of vegetable oils annually, of which soybeans are ingredient. Only one third of this amount is produced in Kenya.
Virtually all counties have opportunities for investment in setting up of specialist regional hospitals, digitization of health and setting up of international satellite hospitals.
Most of our counties are too small to attract big corporations. But they are dealing with this by coming together as commonwealths to enable them enjoy economies of scale. In the Coast, five counties with shared interest have joined hands. In western ten counties are in the process of doing the same with the possibility that three more will also join.
The cooperation between China and Kenya portends great prospects. The coming of county governments in Kenya gives us bigger and better opportunities for cooperation and shared growth.
I extend a cordial invitation to you. Let’s us join hands and walk together to a shared better future.