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Kenya's Political and Trade Evolution: Assessing the Influence of China's Belt and Road Initiative

by Amanda Hopkins


This paper analyzes the influence of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) on Kenya’s economy and politics. It delves into the extensive infrastructure projects spanning Asia and Africa, creating the "New Silk Road." The BRI, active since 2012, connects China to the Eastern Hemisphere through land and sea routes, involving 65 nations and a significant global economic share. Notably, Kenya’s President William Ruto’s recent plea for more loans amid mounting public debt offers a fresh perspective on the BRI’s impact on developing nations.

The study investigates the interplay between Kenya’s political landscape, trade dynamics, external engagements (such as with the United States), and their collective effect on soft power. Employing both quantitative and qualitative methodologies, it evaluates increasing investments, international trade patterns, interactions between Kenya and China, and relationships with neighboring states, and it addresses U.S. concerns. The analysis focuses on how China’s BRI investments have shaped Kenya’s political ties and global trade dynamics.

            This analysis reveals that the correlation between China’s FDI and Kenya’s real GDP growth exhibits an inverse relationship, indicating that as Chinese FDI increases, Kenya’s economic development faces challenges. Concerns arise from Kenya’s high debt levels, with discussions on debt sustainability and potential debt traps. Despite these apprehensions, Kenya’s proactive engagement in Chinese financing and protective measures in loan agreements offer some assurance.

            Furthermore, recent developments, particularly President Ruto’s increased global involvement and advocacy for transforming the global financial system, present an optimistic outlook for Kenya’s position in the evolving international economic landscape. This paper underscores the need for continued scrutiny and thoughtful analysis of China’s role in African development, using Kenya as a valuable case study.


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