Source: Forum on China-Africe Cooperation Uodated: 2013-8-23
BEIJING, Aug. 21 (Xinhua) -- China's investment in Africa has helped accelerate regional integration in the continent by bridging the infrastructure gap, a Kenyan entrepreneur told Xinhua Wednesday.
In an exclusive interview with the news agency, Chris Kirubi, a Kenyan industrialist and businessman, said, "By investing to build ports, railway lines and roads, China is helping African countries open up to trade with each other."X A member of the business entourage of the visiting Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Kirubi said, "African countries must open up their markets to each other and become 'one big country' if we want to get out of backwardness and to develop fast."
The 72-year-old, who was ranked 31st on Forbes's list of Africa's 40 Richest in 2011, said that although several African common markets have taken shape, cross-border trade is still a major challenge for the continent partly due to infrastructure deficiencies.
The real estate tycoon's comments came as latest official statistics showed that the world's second largest economy's foreign direct investment in Africa stood at around 20 billion U.S. dollars by the end of 2012, with 3 billion U.S. dollars added to the total last year.
Figures also showed that China is Kenya's biggest source of foreign direct investment and its second largest trade partner with bilateral business rising to 2.84 billion U.S. dollars in 2012.
Kirubi said China, which he believes is Kenya's true development partner, must keep an eye on the balance of trade between the two sides.
On Monday, Chinese President Xi Jinping, meeting with Kenyatta, vowed that his country will increase imports from Kenya to promote balanced growth of bilateral trade and foster cooperation in fields including infrastructure, renewable energy, agriculture, environment and wild animal protection.
The two countries announced to establish a comprehensive and cooperative partnership featuring equality, mutual trust and mutual benefit following the meeting.
"In my opinion, China should further invest in manufacturing in Kenya and add value to our tea, our coffee, our coal, mineral resources," Kirubi said.
The billionaire also predicted that with Africa's development and its growing middle-income class, more Africans will possibly be investing in China, changing the current one-sidedness in investment.
Analysts have earlier said that Kenyatta's visits to Russia and China, the president's first official state visits outside Africa since his inauguration in April, have sent a clear signal of Nairobi's strengthening focus on its "Look East" policy.
"Kenya is not choosing investment, either it is from the West or the East," said Kirubi. "Money has no color. We are not discriminating. What Kenya wants is development."
But he said that the "Look East" policy is helping his country, a former British colony which in his words was "looking too much to the West", to balance.
"We are balancing our relationship with other countries. Opening up to all sides, rather than to be too dependent on one side," he said. "You cannot continue to walk with one leg."
The businessman said he thinks it is much easier to negotiate and to work with Chinese people because there is no colonial legacy.
Kirubi, who owns Kenya's most popular radio station Capital FM, said he believed that the media should play a central role in bringing people together in terms of Sino-Africa relations development.
"Media of China and Africa should highlight where the success story is and where their failures are and also encourage people's relationships," he said.
"With the media's efforts, we hope that more Chinese will come to visit Africa, not only for business, but also for tourism," Kurubi said. "Let them come to the new world and the new wonderland, Africa."