Kenya: A Chinese Invasion or is it Immigration?

When you fly through London Heathrow like I have done many times, you see the effect of the historical development of the commonwealth. London Heathrow reflects members of her Majesty’s former colonies. Unless you are aware of this history, you might think your plane was diverted to Mubai, or Morocco, for that matter.


Entering Kenyatta International Airport in 2001, I remember the reflection of the deteriorated economy. After several years in the United States, I entered into a dark and gloomy airport.  The lighted advertisements had lights on one side, the floors had holes, the baggage claim area had a belt that swanked loundly and there was no guarantee that I would find my luggage intact.


From 2001 to 2013 I have travelled through the airport every year and can actually say that there is a great improvement in Jomo Kenyatta’s physical and psychological mood.  A pleasant move toward the true definition of an airport! This reflects the economic development within the country. Nairobi Java house reflects this economic development: Nothing like having a Latte while waiting to board Swiss Air freight.


This time when I arrived at the airport, I wondered whether my plane had been diverted to Bangkok! Tens of young Chinese men, ages 25 to 35 occupied all the seats at the lobby. I have never seen so many Chinese people in my life!  I know that China is involved in building the roads and everything, including toilets in Kenya. But I thought it was a few engineers who were involved in these projects! I am completely confused! I thought we have University of Nairobi graduates, Kenyatta, Edgerton, Moi, Catholic, Methodist, and Presbyterian, etcetera!  Don’t we have a work force?


These Chinese people I saw at the airport were not engineers. I could tell they were Chinese laborers! We are using Chinese companies to build our roads with our money, which is great, but I thought the idea is that we create jobs for our youth! No wonder my village still has so many young people sitting around “Mugetho”. Help me understand!


I thought that only in West Africa they are having problems with Chinese companies bringing in young people to even move the dirt! Are Africans so stupid and inert that they cannot do manual labor? For goodness sake! Go to the port of Mombasa and you will see our young people! Strong young men working like donkeys moving gunias! Can’t these same young men be used to move dirt?


What is wrong with us? I know our companies when given contracts do a shady job! But our youth are not lazy! I flew through Zurich on Swiss air and the majority of the people  who were working were Swiss! Common!

Teddy Njoroge Kamau (PhD), SYR Radio/TV, Director, International Desk

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