President Ruto’s visit to China for BRI Summit raises questions on the African debt crisis

  • 23 Oct 2023
  • 2 Mins Read
  • 〜 by Naisiae Simiren

Kenyan President Ruto’s recent visit to Beijing, China, for the third Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) summit took centre stage this week. China’s President Xi Jinping, the host, delivered a keynote address stating that BRI was akin to a Western-led development and highlighted its mission to go beyond differences between cultures and development by fostering success in developing countries while promoting China’s own prosperity.


President Ruto’s attendance of the BRI summit, however, appeared contradictory to his earlier stance expressed during the Ibrahim Governance Weekend hosted by Mo Ibrahim Foundation. In his speech, the President criticized the Bretton Woods institutions for lack of debt repayment alternatives for overseas development funds. Dr Ruto called for a revamped global financial architecture tailored to African development needs and repayment capabilities. 


The issue of mounting debts owed to China, especially for infrastructural development, remains a growing concern. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in his speech during the BRI summit called for measures to prevent developing countries from accumulating unsustainable debt citing payment defaults by countries such as Zambia and Sri Lanka. 


While China continues to lure African countries to deep pits of debt which are marked by high inflation, low growth and weak currencies, African nations have increasingly turned to the Western countries and institutions for assistance. This shift leads to healthy and competitive geopolitics as the Western countries strive to prevent a new world order led by China. 


President Ruto’s address at the BRI summit included a call for investments in Kenya particularly in the growth of the digital economy. While the President was making an investment case for Kenya, he contradicted his early words during the IGW where he advocated that before Kenya or any African country would be bundled into a bus in a foreign country, the African Union leadership would represent Africa and Kenya in particular in such a meeting. This week this was not the case starting from the President being dropped by a bus and individually calling for investments into Kenya from China singling out the African Union.


In a few days, Kenya, represented by Trade Cabinet Secretary Rebecca Miano, will attend the G7 Trade Ministers’ Summit slated for October 28, 2023, in Osaka, Japan. This will be an opportunity for Kenya to enter into a partnership for trade investment with Japan. The CS will seek to foster trade and investment opportunities that provide for an equitable landscape of mutual benefits to either country.  


Whereas African problems require African solutions, it is clear that Kenya and Africa in general cannot steer away from taking further and unsustainable loans from the hegemonic countries disguised as investment and development solutions.