The surge of China’s economy in recent years has presented the nation with a position of power. However, China hasn’t made any major moves to use this power globally, until yesterday, when plans to construct a railway line in East Africa were finalized and signed. Funded primarily by China (they’re footing 90% of the $3.8 billion bill with Kenya covering the remainder), the project will replace and extend an existing line built while under British colonial rule. Construction of the first stretch by a Chinese firm connecting Mombasa and Nairobi (two Kenyan cities) is projected to be completed in early 2018. When finished, subsequent links to Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and South Sudan will begin to be built. The railway will be a huge advancement in infrastructure for East Africa, offering the countries there an opportunity to become more unified and cut the cost of transporting people and goods. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang described it as
“…a major undertaking that will boost the connectivity and integration of the East African sub region.”
The cooperation between these nations holds a handful of potential implications. First, it seems as though Africa may be ready to turn over a new leaf and depart from the chaos it has been stuck in since European colonization. This project is the largest Kenya has undertaken since its colonial period and could signify the beginning of a trend of self-development throughout Africa. Second, it is important to note China’s involvement with this project appears to demonstrate that China is interested in giving aid abroad to develop a mutually beneficial relationships with other nations. To get an idea of the breadth of the type of relationship being established, we can look to a statement by the president of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, from his speech at the signing of the agreement.
“Premier Li identified five areas in which China and Africa could enhance their cooperation – in industry, in finance, in poverty reduction, in ecological protection, in people to people exchanges – and crucially, he also identified peace and security as a core concern for relations between Africa and China in years to come.”
His words show that this is no shallow affair. China is looking to go beyond this infrastructure project and create something longterm. This could be very significant in terms of how China behaves in the future. Could this be the start of China becoming a more globally involved benefactor?