NAIROBI, May 21 (Xinhua) -- China and Kenya have deepened mutual political trust and expanded cooperation over the years, pushing their relations to the level of a comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership, Chinese Ambassador to Kenya Wu Peng said on Tuesday.
Wu said increased cooperation has seen China's non-financial direct investment in Kenya record double-fold increase to about 520 million U.S. dollars in 2018.
"Now we have over 400 Chinese companies in Kenya, creating thousands of jobs for local community," Wu said.
"Both sides enjoy frequent exchanges in education, science and culture. The China-Africa Joint Research Center and China-Kenya Joint Laboratory for Crop Molecular Biology have been operating smoothly in Kenya," Wu said during the sixth press club meeting in Nairobi.
Since 2015, he said, China has provided over 67,000 training opportunities for Kenyans.
"Currently, over 2,400 Kenyan students are studying in China. In 2018, over 81,000 Chinese tourists traveled to Kenya for leisure and adventure," he said.
Wu observed that China's funding to Kenya and other developing countries is aimed at development.
"China always attaches high importance to debt sustainability. Before making decisions, Chinese companies and banks, even the third party, go through rigorous feasibility studies, evaluation, and review of a country's credit rating,"said Wu, who used the occasion to discuss some hot topics about the China-Kenya partnership.
Huge infrastructural projects like the standard gauge railway (SGR) may take long to yield returns, but they are solid and valid assets, whose value will grow in time, he stressed.
The SGR, according to Wu, is a flagship project that showcases the fast speed and high quality of China-Kenya cooperation.
The building of Mombasa-Nairobi SGR has driven the Kenya's economic growth by 1.5 percent and created 46,000 jobs for local residents.
He said the train shortened the Nairobi-Mombasa trip from over 10 hours to five hours. Since its launch in May 2017, with an average booking rate of 99 percent, over 2.77 million passengers have traveled by the SGR, and around 4.2 million tonnes of goods have been transported, said Wu.
In the first full year of operation, SGR earned nearly 10.33 billion Kenyan shillings (about 103 million dollars, which is very close to the operation cost of 120 million dollars a year, he said, adding that for an infrastructural project of SGR's magnitude, it is not easy to achieve near break-even in one year.
China and Kenya are currently discussing the construction of the Mombasa Special Economic Zone and the Naivasha Industrial Park, said the ambassador.
"With the development of the industrial chain from railway transportation, port economy to industrial parks, we have every reason to believe that SGR will benefit Kenya's efforts towards industrialization, and strongly boost Kenya's GDP growth significantly."
"We understand how important agricultural exports are to Kenya. Consequently, we have been working hard to expand China's imports for Kenya's agricultural produce," said Wu.
Last year, China and Kenya signed an agreement on export of stevia to China. An agreement on the export of frozen avocados was also signed, which makes Kenya the first African country to export avocados to China, he added.
He said the two countries are working to seal the deal on export of fresh avocados, as well as working on other horticultural products.
Christopher Chika, head of Asia and Australasia affairs at Kenya's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Kenya will continue to engage with China as long as the relationship is beneficial.
"Our relationship is based on mutual respect and equality. China plays a great role in stabilizing Africa and we shall work with the Chinese nationally, regionally and internationally," Chika said.