The Chinese Embassy in Kenya on Friday hosted workers from the East African country’s Standard Gauge Railway, in a bid to enhance working relations between China and Kenya, and to appreciate the milestones of the railway so far.
The event was in line with the celebration of the 55th anniversary of the two countries’ diplomatic relations.
Both Chinese workers and their Kenyan colleagues shared a moment together, with speakers lauding the working relations they have shared since the launch of the first phase of the railway in May 2017.
While addressing the gathering, Mr. Li Qiang, the vice president of the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) and chairman of the Board of Africa Star Railway Operation Company Limited, hailed the impact of the SGR on Kenya, attributing the success to the employees’ hard work.
“As far as I know, this is the first time that the Chinese Embassy hosts an exclusive function for one company. It is an acknowledgement of the importance of the SGR in the social and economic development of Kenya, and also an acknowledgement of your hard work and great contribution to your country,” Mr. Li Qiang said.
He also hailed the SGR’s service to Kenyans that had seen the train carry its two millionth passenger earlier this month.
Mr. Li Qiang’s sentiments were echoed by the Charge d’affaire of Chinese Embassy Mr. Li Xuhang, who also noted the magnitude of the project, which is considered the biggest infrastructural project in the country since its independence in 1963.
“You are not only the witness of the development of China-Kenya relations and cooperation, but also the builders of our shared future. The Mombasa-Nairobi SGR is the largest infrastructure project since the independence of Kenya, and the flagship project for achieving the Vision 2030. You have every reason to be proud of being the member of the operation team,” Mr. Li Xuhang said in his address.
The SGR is just but one of the many tangible manifestations of the budding China-Kenya relations.
Since 2015, China has been Kenya’s largest trading partner, investor and contractor. Many Chinese investments have been put up in the East African country, providing not only job opportunities to thousands, but also skills and knowledge transfer.
“Currently there are about 400 Chinese enterprises in Kenya, creating nearly 130 thousand job opportunities,” Mr. Li Xuhang said.
The budding relations between China and Kenya have also seen President Uhuru Kenyatta travel to China three times in the past two years. During all the trips, the Kenyan leader held bilateral talks with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.
On his part, the Vice-captain of Passenger Transport fleet, Eric Macharia, thanked both the CRBC hierarchy and the Chinese Embassy for the opportunity they presented to the Kenyan workers.
“We really appreciate our company and we have a lot of love for it because it has given us the opportunity to interact with dignitaries. We have been able to meet with so many people in our lives by working in the SGR and providing service to the people. Today we are privileged to be here in the Embassy, and we want on behalf of the whole department to give our gratitude to the company and the embassy for hosting us,” he said.
Bigger opportunities also lie ahead for the Kenyan employees at the SGR.
According to Mr Li Xuhang, more Kenyans will be absorbed into the company in the future. At present, Kenyan staff account for 72.7% of all the SGR staff, which stands at nearly 50,000 jobs, including over 5,000 professionals and management specialists.
The commemoration of the 55th anniversary of the China-Kenya diplomatic relations will hit a peak on December 14, when the Chinese Embassy in Nairobi will host a red-carpet reception to honor the ties.