Roads and energy main beneficiaries of Chinese aid to Kenya, report

Road-building and other transport projects accounted for nearly half of China's assistance to Kenya during 2001-11, a new study shows. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

China provided Kenya with a total of $1.4 billion in aid during the 2001-2011 period, according to a report issued on Monday by US-based researchers.

Road-building and other transport projects accounted for nearly half of China's assistance to Kenya during those years, says the study compiled by AidData, a research partnership involving two US universities and a nongovernmental organisation.

Energy generation and supply is identified as the second-largest China-Kenya aid category, amounting to $286 million. The largest single project under that heading was for an updating of Kenya's urban power grid, which totalled $138 million, according to the AidData analysis.

China also supplied Kenya with $103 million in aid for health projects during the period studied. Most of that money -- $92 million -- was spent on construction of Kenyatta University Teaching, Research and Referral Hospital in Nairobi, the data shows. China also paid $7 million to build the Mama Lucy Kibaki Hospital in Embakasi constituency.

China's aid spending in Kenya amounted to less than 2 per cent of the total of $75 billion in Chinese assistance to Africa during the decade ending in 2011. Ghana, which was given $11.4 billion, was the largest recipient of Chinese aid, followed by Nigeria, Sudan and Ethiopia.

AidData found that China's total aid to Africa from 2000 to 2011 nearly equalled the amount given by the United States in that period.

But in the case of Kenya, US assistance far surpassed that of China.

Secretive programmes

US aid totalled $5.5 billion -- about four times greater than China's assistance -- while other donor countries provided Kenya with $14.6 billion in the years covered in the AidData study.

The findings released by the US researchers represent an attempt to penetrate China's generally secretive aid programmes.

"Beijing discloses very little official information about its development finance activities," the researchers write in a paper published on Monday by the Washington-based Centre on Global Development.

As a result, the scholars add, "Western policymakers have accused China of expanding its presence in Africa for largely self-interested reasons: securing access to natural resources, subsidizing Chinese firms and
exports, cementing and expanding political alliances, and pursuing global economic hegemony."

AidData's analysis does not strongly substantiate those claims.

It shows that while China does provide significant amounts of assistance to repressive regimes such as Zimbabwe's, Chinese aid is spread widely throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

Much of China's assistance does go to oil-producing states -- sometimes in quid-pro-quo deals involving infrastructure investment in return for energy exports to China.

But Beijing also aids resource-poor countries in SSA, providing Mauritania, for example, with $4.6 billion in aid.

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