By Christine Lagat
NAIROBI, May 5 (Xinhua) -- Kenya is well positioned to reap from benefits that will be realized after the development of a 21st Maritime Silk Road strategy that was proposed by China.
Government officials, scholars and trade lobby groups who spoke to Xinhua were optimistic that a 21st century Maritime Silk Road will open new frontiers of progress in all fields of human endeavor.
The development of a proposed Maritime Silk Road links the Kenyan port of Mombasa with those in Europe, Middle East and Asia.
"Given its strategic location in the region, Kenya will ultimately benefit from new trade routes linking us with economic giants in the Asia pacific region. The new maritime silk road will be a game changer for Kenya as we explore opportunities in the new economic hubs like China and the gulf," remarked Professor Michael Chege, a Senior Advisor at Kenya's Ministry of Planning and Devolution.
The economics professor told Xinhua in an interview that Kenya's economic, cultural and technological revival has been historically tied to maritime silk roads.
Chege noted that Kenya's initial interaction with Chinese and Arab sailors in 15th century set the stage for trade and cultural exchanges.
"The earliest silk roads connecting east and west had impact across the east African coast where sailors from China, Europe and the Arabian Peninsula docked to trade their wares with our raw materials," said Chege.
He added that the original Maritime Silk Road was the bedrock of Chinese, Arabian, Indian and European civilizations.A 21st century Chinese Maritime Silk Road, though in its formative stages, will have ripple effects across the east, central and horn of Africa.
Chege revealed that Kenya is adequately prepared to seize opportunities occasioned by the development of new sea and land trade routes.
"By linking the port of Mombasa with other ports in Europe, Middle East and the Asia Pacific region, the new maritime silk road will increase our volume of exports, create jobs and foster people to people interactions," said Chege.
China's 21st century Maritime Silk Road will create a vast and interconnected economic zone stretching from the Kenyan coast to the rapidly developing Asia pacific region.
"Development of a new maritime silk road will be a historical milestone. It will offer an opportunity for Kenyan and Chinese people to rediscover each other after close to 600 years of engagement," remarked Chege.
He noted that China's 21st century Maritime Silk Road will reinvigorate trade in goods and services between China and Kenya.
"Sino-Kenya trade and investments will be revived while technology transfer and human interactions will be elevated to new levels. Kenya is well positioned to accrue benefits from China's 21st century Maritime Silk Road," said Chege.
He noted that China is a key diver of south-south economic and technological cooperation.
The development of massive infrastructure projects in Kenya seeks to facilitate movement of goods and services in the region, he said.
China has financed the construction of mega infrastructure projects in Kenya including the standard gauge railway linking Mombasa and Kampala. Likewise, China is behind the development of Lamu Port and Southern Sudan Ethiopian transport corridor (LAPSSET) .
Once completed, these infrastructure projects will position Kenya as a regional economic powerhouse, he said. "Kenya is already a trade and tourism gateway while new ports, railway lines and roads will facilitate the movement of raw materials and newly discovered hydrocarbons to China."
He added that Kenyan policy makers have studied the concept of a 21st Chinese Maritime Silk Road to realign it with the country's socioeconomic blueprints.
Kenyan trade lobbies were optimistic that China's 21st Maritime Silk Road will increase volume of goods exported to the Asian giant.
The deputy CEO of Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, James Ndegwa, told Xinhua that Sino-Kenya trade and investments will be revived after the establishment of a new trade corridor.
"Kenya seeks to position itself as the gateway to east and central Africa while at the same time position itself as a point of exit for all products destined to Asia and Europe through port of Mombasa. Kenya will also be a major beneficiary of the silk road strategy through LAPSSET project," said Ndegwa.
Kenyan trade lobbies have visited China to negotiate for new markets and investments in diverse areas.
Ndegwa stressed that China is critical to the realization of Kenya's long-term development goals.
"China is assisting Kenya in many fields like infrastructure projects, cultural and sports cooperation. Kenya is a major source of raw material for China's products and the country's finished products forms the largest imports for Kenya. The two countries are positioning themselves to make inroads into each other's markets," Ndegwa told Xinhua.
He added that bilateral ties between Kenya and China will be strengthened upon the establishment of a new trade corridor.