Concern as China Offers Uhuru Sh6 Trillion Loan amidst Other Debts Choking Kenyans

China’s President Xi Jinping on Monday, September 3, promised African leaders during the two-day China-Africa Forum for Cooperation (FOCAC) 2018 Summit, that Beijing was ready to support the continent with another KSh 6 trillion investment cash.

The money, Xi told the gathering, would go towards infrastructure development in Africa under the now controversial multi-billion dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), financed by the Government of China.

While making the pledge at the start of the triennial China-Africa summit, Xi made it known that China, which is currently Africa’s biggest trade partner, was still keen on strengthening its cooperation with Africa and with no strings attached.

“China will extend US$60 billion financing to Africa in the form of government assistance as well as investment, financing by financial institutions and companies,” he told the summit attended by high level delegations and heads of state from across 53 African countries.

China offered the same monetary support of KSh 6 trillion to Africa during the previous summit held in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2015. However, Xi’s development agenda in Africa, heavily funded by loans from China, continues to raise concerns, especially in Kenya, with critics arguing Beijing was overburdening African countries with unsustainable debts. Some claimed China’s BRI was also not economically viable.

In Kenya, the total debt owed to China had risen to KSh 479 billion, about 66% of the country’s bilateral debt, as of 2017. The country is yet to repay KSh 320 billion, borrowed from China’s Export–Import Bank of the United States (Exim), and which was used to construct the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) between Nairobi and Mombasa.

There was a plan to take another Chinese loan of KSh 350 billion for construction of phase two of the SGR connecting Naivasha and Kisumu.

Critics like Economist David Ndii, an economist, have repeatedly disagreed with that position. “We evaluate investment development projects based on four criteria. First, would it make money? Second, will the economic benefits exceed cost? Third, would it promote equity? And lastly, would it be sustainable? The SGR failed on all four parameters,” Ndii argued.