President Ruto To Visit China For Big Infrastructure Meet

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President William Ruto is scheduled to visit China to participate in the third summit to mark 10 years of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

President Ruto is tentatively scheduled to hold talks with his Chinese counterpart President Xi Jingping on the sidelines of the forum whose dates are yet to be made public.

Sources privy to the plans intimated to the Star that the visit would be in the mid-week of October, just before the 60th Mashujaa Day celebrations.

“It is confirmed that he’ll be taking part in the forum. We will give more details once shared by the host country,” State House sources said on Wednesday.

The Star has also established that preparations to host the President in the Asian economic giant were underway and would be advanced once the dates are confirmed.

While in China, Ruto is expected to speak on matters digital economy, which is among the key pillars of his administration’s Bottom-Up Economic Transformation Agenda (BETA).

He is also expected to meet with Kenyans living in China during the brief stay, a meeting whose key highlights would be on the progress made one year since Kenya Kwanza took over the reigns.

China’s foreign affairs ministry last Thursday announced that the country would host the meeting in Beijing – marking 10 years of the global infrastructure development plan.

The last forum took place in 2019 and was attended by leaders from more than 40 countries as well as international organisations and financiers.

Details of the countries taking part in this year’s meeting remain scant, so are the dates and key agendas of the high-level meeting.

Chinese media outlets quoted Wang Wenbin of the Foreign Affairs ministry indicating that “Beijing is in communication with the concerned parties concerned about the preparation for the forum.”

Since the BRI was proposed in 2013, Kenya has been supported by China to put up modern infrastructure projects namely roads, railways, roads, ports, dams, industries, and digital connectivity.

Notable ventures under the initiative include the 670-km Standard Gauge Railway connecting Mombasa Port and the Naivasha dry port.

Chao Ten, head of China Road and Bridges Construction – the company that built the SGR, said in a recent interview that there were a lot of lessons to draw from the BRI, specifically the railway.

“After the construction and operation of the SGR for the last 10 years, we have learned a lot. For instance a number of local staff have been trained as operators,” he said.

“Some of the local staffers who started as apprentice locomotive drivers are now masters in operating and driving the trains. SGR has also provided speedy delivery of cargo to Nairobi which now takes only eight hours,” he said.

Ten added, “Unlike 10 years ago when they were using the meter gauge railway…SGR has also eased storage challenges at the port.”

He said their hope was that the railway will be connected to Malaba, which are among the issues that would inform the third BRI forum.

“We are looking forward to working on more cooperation to expand the line and network with the EAC countries. The projects linked to the railway line are key to flow of cargo,” Ten said.

“For port operation, the SGR and port of Mombasa work closely. In future, if we can move the same to Kampala, that is the way to go,” he said, “If more containers are using SGR, the road would be freed for other users as this would deal with the current challenge of congestion.”

The assertions came against the backdrop of commitment by the Ruto administration to expand the railway network to reach undeserved regions in the country.