Archive for ‘Nairobi’


China meets resistance over Kenya coal plant, in test of its African ambitions

  • Court revokes licence for coal-fired power plant in Kenyan town whose Unesco World Heritage status is at stake
  • Beijing’s efforts to cut emissions domestically coincide with coal-financing ventures overseas
A proposed coal-fired power plant in Kenya involving four Chinese companies has provoked protests. Photo: Handout
A proposed coal-fired power plant in Kenya involving four Chinese companies has provoked protests. Photo: Handout
This article is part of a series in which the South China Morning Post examines the local impact of Chinese investment and infrastructure projects in Africa.
There are a few places in the world that have held onto their traditions. One is the island of Lamu, close to Kenya’s northern coast, which is an epicentre of Swahili culture in East Africa and home to its oldest and best-preserved history.
Nowhere combines the culture’s architecture and heritage like Lamu Old Town, where there are two streets, few cars and dozens of mosques and churches. Donkeys and wooden carts are the main modes of transport.
The town is a Unesco World Heritage Site with multibillion-dollar tourism and fishing industries. But it risks losing its global allure after Unesco’s World Heritage Committee warned that a US$2 billion coal-fired power plant planned in the area threatened its heritage site status.
Four Chinese companies are involved in the project. The United States also supported it, with its envoy to Kenya, Kyle McCarter, saying the country needed cheaper power and American energy firm GE promising to inject US$400 million for a 20 per cent stake in Amu Power, the operating company. The Kenyan government has said the plant would enable the country to have a diversified source of electricity.
Lamu Old Town’s Unesco status helps to support its tourism and fishing industries. Photo: Handout
Lamu Old Town’s Unesco status helps to support its tourism and fishing industries. Photo: Handout

However, the project’s future is uncertain after a Kenyan court, the National Environment Tribunal, ordered on June 26 that a fresh environmental impact assessment be carried out. The tribunal, which oversees decisions made by the National Environment Management Authority, also revoked the licence issued by the authority to Amu Power.

A lack of public consultation to date, as well as the environmental risks, were cited by the court, whose ruling is binding on the government. Unesco has urged Amu Power to proceed with the impact assessment, which in turn could have an impact on perceptions of Beijing’s signature transcontinental infrastructure strategy, the

Belt and Road Initiative


Two days after the court’s verdict, Wu Peng, the Chinese ambassador to Kenya, met groups opposed to the building of the coal plant, days after they had been dispersed by police when they tried to protest at the embassy. Wu acknowledged the need to develop a different approach to hear the public’s views.

Anti-coal campaigners have been demanding China back out. Of the plant’s estimated US$2 billion cost, US$1.2 billion is coming from the Industrial Commercial Bank of China.

The three Chinese companies – Sichuan Electric Power Design and Consulting, China Huadian, and Sichuan No 3 Power Construction – teamed up with Kenya’s Centum Investments and Gulf Energy in a venture to form Amu Power. Another Chinese firm, Power Construction (PowerChina), was contracted to build the plant, which is expected to generate 1,050 megawatts of electricity.
The Chinese embassy in Nairobi said it had asked the Chinese investors to wait for Kenya’s decision on whether it should go ahead.
“Our position is that the Kenyan people are the final decision makers in this project and the Chinese government respects that,” embassy spokeswoman Huang Xueqing said.
Despite committing to cutting China’s reliance on coal, Beijing is still funding several coal-powered plants around the world. Both China and Kenya signed the

Paris Agreement

on climate change in 2016, promising to cut carbon emissions.

China may be providing a market for its coal by outsourcing its fossil fuel use to other countries, according to, which campaigns to prevent climate change and works to end use of fossil fuels.
Yossi Cadan, a senior campaigner for the organisation, said many people looked to China to be the new world leader in addressing climate change, given its government’s ambitious initiative to reduce emissions domestically. US President Donald Trump, by contrast, made the controversial decision to 
Activists and Lamu residents have protested about the coal plant. Photo: Handout
Activists and Lamu residents have protested about the coal plant. Photo: Handout

“While China seems determined to meet its Paris climate agreement targets at home, it undermines those efforts to reduce global emissions by simultaneously investing in coal projects across the world,” Cadan said.

According to Cadan, cancellations and delays of coal projects in China left a desperate Chinese coal industry looking elsewhere, assisted by Chinese financial institutions.

He argued that if China was serious about being a global leader in reducing emissions and tackling the climate crisis, it must apply the same restrictions it was 

introducing domestically

to coal financing outside China.

Analysts said that if the Lamu coal project were to be abandoned, other Chinese-funded coal power projects in Africa would come under the spotlight.
China is funding eight coal-powered projects in Africa, including Egypt’s Hamrawein plant, which has an estimated cost of US$4.2 billion and is expected to generate six gigawatts of power.
Omar Elmawi, campaign coordinator at deCOALonize, was among the campaigners who met ambassador Wu two weeks ago.
“Other African countries could take a cue from [the Kenyan situation],” he said. “Already key financial institutions are coming up with policies that are either cutting back on or refusing to fund new coal plant projects. This will add to the pressure on China to abandon coal projects.”
Lauri Myllyvirta, lead analyst at Greenpeace’s air pollution unit, said the Lamu case could spur the Chinese government to adapt its criteria for supporting overseas energy projects. This could include requiring coal-fired power projects overseas to meet more stringent emissions standards.
“Currently, essentially all of the overseas coal-fired power projects with involvement from Chinese banks and firms plan to use much weaker emissions control technology than is allowed in China, leading to much worse air quality impacts and public health impacts – which was the case in Lamu,” Myllyvirta said.
“It’s hard to see how [a weaker emissions standard] fits with the Chinese leadership’s objectives of greening the belt and road, and projecting a positive, technologically advanced image of China overseas.”
Source: SCMP

China-Kenya ties growing stronger amid positive outcomes: envoy

NAIROBI, April 19 (Xinhua) — The bilateral cooperation between China and Kenya has grown stronger in the recent past, unleashing mutual benefits across economic and social spheres, a Chinese envoy has said.

Li Xuhang, the outgoing minister counsellor at the Chinese Embassy in Kenya, said at his farewell reception on Thursday night that the last two years had witnessed significant milestones in bilateral ties between Nairobi and Beijing.

“The 27 months has witnessed tangible achievements on China-Kenya cooperation,” said Li, adding that the China-funded Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway that was launched on May 31, 2017 has come to symbolize fruitful cooperation between the two countries.

According to Li, about 2.7 million passengers and 4 million tonnes of cargo have already been ferried between Mombasa and Nairobi since the launch of SGR trains.

He said that Kenyan President Kenyatta’s scheduled visit to China next week to attend the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation is expected to inject vitality into bilateral relations between Nairobi and Beijing.

He said that over 400 Chinese firms have established a presence in Kenya thanks to favorable policy environment while the number of Chinese tourists who visited Kenya increased from 56,000 in 2016 to some 81,000 in 2018.

“The leapfrogging development of bilateral relations over the past two years is the result of joint efforts of Chinese and Kenyan people from all walks of life,” said Li.

Source: Xinhua


Xi joins deliberation with Fujian deputies at annual legislative session


    Chinese President Xi Jinping, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, joins deliberation with deputies from Fujian Province at the second session of the 13th National People’s Congress in Beijing, capital of China, March 10, 2019. (Xinhua/Li Xueren)

    BEIJING, March 10 (Xinhua) — President Xi Jinping on Sunday afternoon joined deliberation with deputies from Fujian Province at the second session of the 13th National People’s Congress, China’s national legislature.

    “[We] should create a favorable development environment for innovation, entrepreneurship and creativity,” said Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission.

    China should seek momentum from reform and opening up, unleash to the maximum the whole society’s power for innovation, entrepreneurship and creativity, and keep improving the country’s influence and competitiveness in a world that is undergoing profound changes, Xi said.

    Xi stressed creating favorable conditions for the development of small and medium-sized enterprises and young people, and establishing an acceleration mechanism for high-tech companies.

    He urged solid implementation of the policies and measures to encourage, guide and support the development of the private sector.

    Fujian must leverage the combined strengths of the special economic zone, pilot free trade zone, comprehensive experimental zone and the core zone of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, and keep exploring new approaches, Xi said.

    Xi called for efforts to explore new ways for integrated development across the Taiwan Strait.

    The two sides of the Taiwan Strait should enhance economic and trade cooperation, infrastructure connectivity, energy and resource exchanges, and shared industry standards, he said.

    Cross-Strait cooperation and cultural exchanges should be strengthened, he added.

    Xi stressed the importance of implementing the people-centered development concept in the work on Taiwan, urging efforts to benefit Taiwan compatriots in the same way as people on the mainland are served.

    He encouraged listening to the voice of Taiwan compatriots and research on what other policies and measures can be introduced to bring them benefits.

    Xi said that this year marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of New China, and it is necessary to ensure that no one in the country’s old revolutionary base areas falls behind in the process of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects.

    He called for adherence to targeted poverty alleviation and efforts to identify the root causes of poverty to enhance the effectiveness of anti-poverty measures.

    More efforts should be put into coordinating economic development with ecological protection, Xi said.

    Source: Xinhua


Chinese investors could help build Kenya into regional manufacturing hub: lobby

NAIROBI, Feb. 11 (Xinhua) — Chinese investors could play an instrumental role in making Kenya a regional manufacturing hub, a Kenyan industry lobby said on Monday.

Mucai Kunyiha, vice chairman of Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM), told journalists in Nairobi that local manufacturers have been losing market share in the East and Central Africa due to uncompetitiveness.

“Tapping into Chinese manufacturing technology and finance is one of the strategies that we will pursue to ensure Kenyan products remain marketable both regionally and internationally,” said Kunyiha.

Kunyiha added that Kenyan industrialists are keen to form joint ventures with Chinese manufacturers so as to produce goods for both domestic and international markets.

He noted that some Kenyan manufacturers have already licensed Chinese technology to produce high quality products locally.

He observed that Kenya was once the major source of manufactured goods to the East African Community bloc.

The industrialist revealed that exports especially of manufactured products to Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi have been on a declining trend in the past five years due to competition from low-cost producing nations.

According to the lobby, so far over 300 Chinese factories are operational in the country in diverse fields such as motor bike assembly, ceramics and sanitary towels sectors.

Kunyiha said that the Chinese operations have created thousands of employment opportunities and have also engaged local suppliers which have boosted the economy.

He revealed that Kenyan manufacturers also are seeking to identify niche products that they can sell to the vast Chinese market.

“We can boost our exports to China by focusing on areas we have a comparative advantage such as genuine African jewelry,” he added.

Source: Xinhua

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