China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Kenya

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken last November traveled to Africa in a trip that was in part aimed at countering China's growing influence on the continent.

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China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi will tour Beijing-funded infrastructure projects in Kenya and discuss future economic opportunities with President Uhuru Kenyatta during a visit Thursday to the East African nation.

Wang arrived in the Indian Ocean port city of Mombasa late Wednesday from Eritrea, a closed-off country that was the first stop on his three-nation tour of Africa. His visit comes on the heels of a trip to Africa by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in November that was in part aimed at countering China’s growing influence on the continent.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Kenyan Foreign Affairs Minister Amb. Raychelle Omamo

China is Africa’s largest trading partner with direct trade worth over $200 billion (177 billion euros) in 2019, according to official Chinese figures. But it has been often accused of using its creditor status to extract diplomatic and commercial concessions. 

China is Kenya’s second-largest lender after the World Bank and has funded a number of costly infrastructure projects that have raised concerns about Nairobi taking on more debt than it can afford.

During his visit, Wang will tour the Port of Mombasa where China is constructing a new $353 million terminal to allow larger oil tankers to berth. He will also meet Kenyatta and a team of ministers to discuss agreements on trade and investment, health, security, climate change and green technology transfer.

“The visit gives the two countries an opportunity to enhance bilateral relations by signing agreements,” Kenya’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

China has rejected suggestions its extensive lending to poorer African countries has trapped cash-strapped governments in debt dependency.

Beijing funded Kenya’s most expensive infrastructure project since independence, loaning $5 billion for the construction of a railway line from Mombasa opened in 2017. During a visit to Mombasa in January 2020, Wang described the railway as a “benchmark” of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, a trillion-dollar push to improve trade links across the globe by building landmark infrastructure.

After Kenya, Wang heads to the Indian Ocean island nation of the Comoros.

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