How China taking over Kenya’s port threatens sovereignty


Kenya borrowed a whopping Sh227 billion (about $2.3 billion) in order to build a standard gauge railway in the country from Mombasa to Nairobi. Specifically, the money was borrowed from the Exim Bank of China. Recent documents came out that provide further details about the deal. In the documents, it is clear that the government decided to use the revenue generated by the Kenya Ports Authority as a source of funds to settle the loan. If the government were to default in the payment of the debt, then the Exim Bank could move in to possess the port. Further details in the report all point to a bias towards the Chinese bank that would leave Kenya powerless. In effect, the sovereignty of the country will be put to a test that it may or may not survive.

The case of modern Chinese colonization of Africa

Sri Lanka port

China taking a country’s port is something that the country has done before. In Asia, a Chinese company possessed Sri Lanka’s port after the country defaulted in paying its debt of $8 billion. The Chinese company possessed the port for a lease of 99 years. Under the deal, both the Sri Lankan government and the Chinese company (China Merchants Port Holding) will manage the port to generate the money. By doing that, the Chinese placed themselves firmly in control of the globe’s busiest east to west shipping route.

Zambia port

Closer to home, Zambia also had to hand over its port after it failed to settle its debt. Zambia had to borrow money from China to construct the very port that the Chinese have taken for a lease period similar to that of Sri Lanka above. In this case, the Chinese firm in question is bank owned by the state. The firm now holds a 70% stake in the country’s economy. In reaction to the Chinese takeover, some Zambians took to the street to protest with signs that equaled China to Hitler. The protest was a weak one but it served as a timely reminder to all African leaders. Essentially, the Chinese invest heavily in key places with high potential for revenue generation.

Back to Kenya

This is not a piece about a conspiracy theory. Instead, it is one about an analysis of the evidence and what it potentially means based on the past and the present. The growing power of the Chinese can have its consequences all over the world. Even though the constitution of China suggests that the country is a democracy, there is enough evidence to suggest otherwise. The growing influence of China in Africa, even though through economical means, is potentially a herald to the colonial periods. By taking over key government sectors, then an argument can be made that economical colonialism is an even more dangerous form of colonization.

The President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, has come out rubbishing such claims. However, the figures show that the Kenyan port may have challenges settling the debt. As it stands, the port generates about $425 million every year. Should the port have any issues with revenue generation, then the Chinese are entirely within their rights to take the port. The deal shows that Kenya waived its sovereign right over the port. The president has to make sure that his legacy is not one that ends in him handing over our country to the Chinese any more than he already has.


Ferdinand Bada
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