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Chinese companies eye Kenya’s roads

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Road repairs. Kenya’s infrastructure has significant untapped potential for Chinese firms. Photo/FILE

Road repairs. Kenya’s infrastructure has significant untapped potential for Chinese firms. Photo/FILE 

By DOMINIQUE PATTON

Posted  Friday, November 6  2009 at  00:00

Chen Jian, an assistant minister of commerce, also claims that China is looking out for both parties.

Responding to a reporter’s question earlier this week about Chinese firms bringing many of their own workers to Africa, he said: “We seek common development for both China and African countries. We try to pursue common prosperity of both sides.”

He added that China’s strong ties with Africa have provided many countries with “high quality projects, reduced construction costs” and faster construction times.

The trend for growing investment on the continent certainly looks set to increase.

Mr Chen said that “the Chinese business community has bucked the trend” this year, investing $875 million in Africa in the first nine months, an increase of 77.5 per cent over the same period of 2008. In total, China had invested $7.8 billion in the continent by the end of 2008.

China will continue to support Africa’s energy sector, which takes up about a third of its overall assistance to the continent, said Mr Chen. Agriculture, healthcare and education will also receive ongoing support while projects to help tackle climate change are expected to get new commitments from China at this weekend’s conference.

“We will announce new measures to adjust to climate change and protect the environment. We are working together on solar, biogas and geothermal,” said Mr Zhai.

He pointed to a recently approved grant of $100 million for the Ol-Karia geothermal project as evidence of the kind of projects likely to get Chinese aid.

China also wants to help Africa cope with the impact of the financial crisis though the officials gave no detail on how it would do this.

Trade volumes between China and the continent have surged in recent years but they declined about 25 per cent in the first nine months of this year and huge imbalances remain for many countries.

Kenya’s exports to China hit the 2 billion shillings mark in 2008 but Chinese imports grew faster and the gap has stretched to 62.5 billion, up from 44 billion in 2007, according to data from the Centre for Business Information in Kenya.

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