Chinese builders win praise from Kenyans for mega projects

A Chinese construction supervisor mentors youths in Nairobi. PHOTO/FILE
A Chinese construction supervisor mentors youths in Nairobi. PHOTO/FILE

The workmanship of Chinese construction firms in Kenya has continued to win praise from citizens amid mounting criticism from local contractors.

Many Kenyans have hailed Chinese companies, most of which are engaged in the construction of roads and railway, for the quality of their work and the speed at which they can deliver.

“Chinese firm’s skilled workmanship, and the timeous execution of the projects, is winning the respect and admiration of many Kenyans,” says John Mwangi, a regular user of the Chinese-built Thika Road.

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The Sh32 billion highway, which was undertaken by China Wu Yi, Sinohydro and Sheng Li, remains the most well-acclaimed project in the country. A majority of Kenyans believe that the road, which was completed in 2012, would never have seen the light of day under a local contractor.

“They (Chinese contractors) are fantastic in their work. If the project was given to a Kenyan firm, it would still be under-construction or completed but full of potholes,” says Jane Murenga, a PhD student at Kenyatta University.

Chinese firms initially concentrated on roads, but they have now moved into other areas such as railway construction, housing and power generation.

However, despite their great workmanship, the Chinese firms have recently come under fire from local builders who accuse them of ‘snatching’ contracts.

A member of the Kenya Plant Owners and Floor Contractors who wished to remain anonymous, for example, recently told Construction Business Review that Chinese were snatching everything in local projects including supervisory duties.

“I’ve been in the construction industry for nine years and I’ve helplessly watched almost all State projects being taken up by the Chinese firms,” said the member who also sits in a committee of a local contractors association.

Kenyan contractors insist that their powerlessness is not due to Chinese firms’ competitive edge but rather due to China’s well-lined purse and arm-twisting stipulations which have gone a long way in favouring Chinese contractors.

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