This photo taken on Jan 11, 2017 shows the first batch of locomotives for the Mombasa-Nairobi standard gauge railway in Mombasa, Kenya. (PHOTO / XINHUA)
NAIROBI - It was like a dream come true when Lillian Otuma, a resident in a working-class suburb of Kenya's capital Nairobi, recently secured a passenger train ticket to the coastal city of Mombasa through the Chinese-built Standard Gauge Railway (SGR).
Otuma was among hundreds of passengers who flocked into the Nairobi SGR station to take a trip to Mombasa for business, leisure or family reunions. It was her first time to see a modern train, Otuma said, thanking China for the gift.
A flagship project of China-Kenya cooperation, the railway has profoundly changed the lives of ordinary citizens.
While enhancing economic cooperation and mutual trust, China and Kenya have been promoting people-to-people exchanges, which are key to strengthening bonds of friendship
Chris Morara, a 40-year-old father of three and a motorcycle driver carrying passengers to the Athi River station, has seen his business boosted since the 480-km long Mombasa-Nairobi SGR launched its train service on May 31 last year.
The SGR train has revolutionized the way how people, goods and services move within the country, according to Kenya's Cabinet Secretary for Transport and Infrastructure James Macharia.
The train reduces the travel time between Kenya's two biggest cities by half from 10 hours to five and enjoys an over 95 percent occupancy.
It had handled at least 1.96 million passengers by Oct 17, according to its Chinese operator. Meanwhile, about 2.23 million tons of cargo have been transported by the SGR cargo service since Dec 1 last year, saving a colossal amount of money for entrepreneurs compared with road transportation.
An early fruit of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative, the railway project is estimated to have boosted the eastern African country's GDP by 1.5 percent and have provided 46,000 jobs to locals. About 300 domestic enterprises sub-contracted the construction, according to official figures.
The success of Mombasa-Nairobi SGR illustrates the China-Kenya comprehensive strategic and cooperative partnership, which enjoys rapid development and leads China-Africa cooperation in various fields.
Beyond infrastructure, the partnership also covers areas including party-to-party exchange, cultural exchanges, agriculture, education, tourism and sports.
In addition to a frequent exchange of high-level visits by leaders from both countries, the Communist Party of China (CPC) has forged a working relationship with Kenya's ruling Jubilee Party that features exchange of visits by senior officials and sharing of knowledge and experience to strengthen governance.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (right) meets with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta in Shanghai, east China, Nov 4, 2018. (PHOTO / XINHUA)
The CPC has been able to unite a country of more than 1.3 billion people so that socioeconomic development can take place, and Jubilee Party is keen to borrow lessons from that, Raphael Tuju, secretary general of the party, told a training forum for Jubilee Party by the CPC in July.
The secretary general said to strengthen itself, the Jubilee Party is exploring possibilities of establishing a party school to inculcate a culture of discipline among party members.
While enhancing economic cooperation and mutual trust, China and Kenya have been promoting people-to-people exchanges, which are key to strengthening bonds of friendship.
Four of the eastern African country's leading universities boast Confucius Institutes that elevate cultural diplomacy and friendship between the two long-standing partners.
The Confucius Institute at Egerton University in the western county of Nakuru has become a hub for Chinese language teaching as well as exchange on agricultural technologies.
About 1,000 Kenyans have participated in training courses on modern agriculture organized by the institute, and faculty members in the Kenyan university are also sponsored to pursue post-graduate studies in China.
Alan Jumba, one of the trainees, is now at the forefront assisting local farmers in adopting climate resilient food production systems.
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The Sino-Africa Joint Research Center at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology is another example of the growing exchange.
More than 45 joint research programs have been undertaken since 2013 on bio-pathogenic microorganism detection, geographic science and remote sensing, high yield and high quality crop cultivation demonstration and land and water resource management.
The China-funded joint research projects are key to attaining food security and environmental sustainability in Africa, Kenyan Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed said during a visit to the center in June, adding that collaboration between scholars from the two sides, including student exchanges, has further strengthened bilateral ties and economic relations.
In this undated photo, a Chinese tourist looks at a giraffe in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya. (PHOTO / XINHUA)
China-Kenya cooperation in tourism is also thriving as the eastern African country, which is renowned for sandy beaches and wildlife reserves, has become a popular destination for Chinese visitors despite a long-haul flight.
Kenya currently receives some 69,000 Chinese tourists annually, according to 2017 government statistics. It aims to attract 100,000 Chinese in the next one two years, Najib Balala, Cabinet Secretary for Tourism and Wildlife, told Xinhua in March.
As another highlight of bilateral exchanges, Chinese athletes get trained in Kenya's high-altitude camps, which are often cradles of top long-distance runners, and Kenyan athletes are among the most active groups in marathons across China, bagging top prizes.
Many are confident that China-Kenya ties will go from strength to strength as bilateral cooperation and exchanges expand to more aspects.
Kenya is willing to deepen its comprehensive strategic and cooperative partnership with China, actively participate in Belt and Road construction and promote connectivity, said Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta when attending the 2018 Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation.
HONG KONG NEWS