In the past 10 years, China has gone from having a small presence in Kenya to become one of its most important trading and investment partners.
Thanks to shipments of rolling stock and other equipment, Kenya’s imports from China ballooned to nearly US$3.4 billion in 2016 — an almost threefold increase from 2010 — against US$478 million from the US.
This figure is set to increase further with the construction of China’s BRI projects, which include the Standard Gauge Railway and the Lamu Port and Lamu-Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET) Corridor, both of which are largely Chinese funded.
“As a regional hub, Nairobi is currently the gateway of investment from the East into the continent of Africa and we are therefore very excited about the opportunities that this initiative presents to Kenya.” Ben Woodhams, Managing Director at Knight Frank Kenya
These, amongst other projects, have resulted in the country’s debt to China increased almost tenfold, from US$366 million in 2012 to US$3.1 billion in 2016. Major real estate investments in Kenya are in the country’s capital Nairobi and its immediate environs.
Chinese investors such as China National Aero-Technology International Engineering Corporation (AVIC), and Jiangxi Water and Hydropower Construction Co have taken a nearly 40% stake that amounts to US$70 million in the Two Rivers Project in Nairobi.
The project will consist of five-star hotels, office blocks, residential homes and shops, the retail component of which was launched in February 2017. AVIC International Africa is also investing in a US$100 million development being built in Nairobi’s Westlands district. The complex will be the hub of AVIC International African operations.
The tallest tower in the scheme will stand at 178m with 43 storeys. Chinese property developer Erdemann Property is also building a US$60 million residential housing project in Athi River on the outskirts of the capital.
The investment will be the company’s third phase of Great Wall Gardens, which includes development of 2,000 units comprising two-bedroom and three-bedroom apartments.
Charles Macharia Head of Research Knight Frank Kenya