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China Boosts Aid to Kenyan Community Groups to Extend Influence
China Boosts Aid to Kenyan Community Groups to Extend Influence
| June 4, 2024

Chinese Embassy Minister Counselor Zhang Zhizhong announces schools suppport in Nairobi, Kenya on May 31, 2024. Photo: Brack Oduor

Despite President William Ruto’s recent trip to the US positioning Kenya as a central player in sidelining Washington’s rivals in East Africa, China remains determined to bolster its influence in Nairobi and the region.

China is strengthening its ties in Nairobi by funding local community initiatives. On Friday, May 31, Beijing announced a donation exceeding Sh370 million for education initiatives in informal settlements and flood relief efforts.

Children from Nairobi’s Mathare informal settlement, whose education was severely impacted by recent floods, can now breathe a sigh of relief thanks to China’s intervention.

Minister Counselor Zhang Zhizhong of the Chinese embassy in Kenya announced the donation at an event attended by schoolchildren from a supported institution.

The donation includes 2,040 tonnes of rice valued at over Sh360 million and Sh13 million in cash. This move highlights China’s commitment to building a community of shared future with Kenyan communities during challenging times.

“The China Red Cross provided 100,000 US Dollars (about Sh13 million) in cash for humanitarian emergency assistance,” said Zhang.

He added that the rice shipment is expected to arrive in Kenya by mid-month. “At this moment, two ships carrying 2,040 tons of rice worth 20 million RMB, granted by the Chinese government, are en route to the port of Mombasa and are scheduled to arrive in June. We hope the food will contribute to the restoration from floods,” Zhang said.

Zhang spoke during the handover of separate donations to Mcedo Beijing School in Mathare, Nairobi. The school, fully supported by China, received Sh5 million to address the effects of the floods that left many students homeless and destroyed school supplies.

This gesture demonstrates China’s increasing influence in Africa.

After a three-day state visit to the US, President William Ruto witnessed several multimillion-dollar deals in infrastructure and security, rewarding his close alignment with Washington over the past 20 months.

America’s push to secure Kenya as a dependable ally means US rivals like China and Russia will face a stronger competitor in a region where Beijing has enjoyed significant influence through infrastructure and cultural initiatives.

The Joe Biden administration has expressed concern over Kenya’s ongoing close relationship with China and other leading African economies.

During the flooding crisis, Mathare, like other informal settlements in Nairobi, suffered severe damage, resulting in deaths, destruction, and displacement.

Zhang emphasized, “The story of Mcedo Beijing School is perfectly in line with the principle of building a community of shared future. Building a community with a shared future means shared joys and sorrows. It means solidarity and collaboration in building a better future.”

At least 39 students from the school will benefit from the Chinese ambassador’s scholarship as well. “A shared future means shared values of humanity… I grew up in a poor family and with the help of others, I became a diplomat. There is hope for everybody,” Zhang said.

Kenya’s Deputy Director for Asia and Pacific Affairs, Jane Makori, welcomed the donations, saying they would significantly alleviate the situation for affected families.

“We appreciate it, and we know the children will appreciate it. It is the real way to support our partnership. As a state department, we will continue working with the embassy to ensure the school remains supported,” Makori said.

Founded in 2007, Mcedo (Mathare Community Education Development Organisation) initially provided adult education before transitioning to primary education the same year. “Mcedo was founded by a group of community members, including two teachers. We started by offering tuition for adults,” said Benedict Chege.

In 2012, the school expanded to offer secondary education.

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