Ties with Kenya 'not just about resources'

Updated: 2013-08-13 01:22

By Li Lianxing in Masai Mara, Kenya (China Daily)

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President hopes to learn from China, promote tourism

The strong relationship between China and Kenya is based on a wide range of partnerships rather than mineral or natural resources, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said, adding that it could be a model for China-Africa relations.

"There has been a major accusation that China is only interested in exploiting the mineral resources of the African continent. But China and Kenya have a strong and robust relationship, and it's not based on mineral resources exploitation, but based on investment, manufacturing and infrastructure development," Kenyatta told China Daily in an exclusive interview before his first state visit outside Africa after taking office in April.

Kenyatta is scheduled to visit China from Aug 18 to 23, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said on Monday.

"There are indeed many other areas where we have seen a great deal of benefits from our relationship with China, and also there are some areas we need to strengthen, as we know China is slowly becoming one of our largest investment and development partners," Kenyatta said.

He also said China is critical to Kenya's trade and investment, and he will cement the already good ties with China during his visit.

Trade volume between the two countries reached $2.84 billion last year, up 55 percent from 2010, according to the Ministry of Commerce.

"We also want to get firsthand development experience from China, which is the source of success as the second-largest economy," Kenyatta added.

Both countries embraced new leadership this year, and Kenyatta said he and Chinese leaders are facing common challenges. "China and Kenya should jointly drive the international agenda and play a bigger role in the international platform to represent developing countries."

"We have a lot in common in history and could learn from each other," he said.

Kenyatta said his country has a lot to learn from China, especially the model of economic growth, which has been based on the development of infrastructure, manufacturing and fully utilizing the potential of youth.

"We have rapidly and incredibly growing economic muscles, and Kenya could learn from that particular model," he said, adding that Kenya has become an economic service hub for the Eastern African Community, an organization comprised of five nations.

He also expects his visit to further expand cooperation in tourism marketing, as well as encourage more Chinese manufacturers to set up plants in his country.

He said he wants to diversify his country's tourism market to attract more Chinese.

About 41,000 Chinese tourists visited Kenya last year, an increase of 10.4 percent compared with 2011, according to the Kenyan Ministry of Tourism.

"Traditionally our tourism was looking toward Western Europe and the United States. But we are now really moving very fast to diversify our products," he said.

"As we continue to encourage the visits from traditional markets, we also recognize the growing importance of China, India, South Africa and Brazil, as Kenya's tourism resources are something they were not familiar with previously."

The country has prepared to welcome more Chinese to travel to Kenya and Africa, Kenyatta added.

"We have a number of programs running in the universities training people to speak Mandarin," he said.

He said Kenya provides not only wildlife — traditionally known as the major part of Kenyan tourism — but also a rich cultural heritage for international visitors.

He said Kenya and other East African Community member countries are trying to offer one-stop visas to attract international tourists.

"We have taken action and had discussions with our partners in the EAC on the prospects of developing a one-tourism visa that could enable tourists who are applying to go to Kenya to also go to Rwanda, Uganda and other eastern African countries," said Kenyatta. "We are hoping that it could be realized very soon," he said, adding that the visa could be issued as early as next year.