Copyright Voice of America
27 January 2006
State-run China Radio International Friday launched
its FM station in the Kenyan capital. The move is
seen as a way for the Asian country to have a greater
influence in Africa.
The station is transmitting 19 hours of programming in
English, Kiswahili (the language widely spoken in East
Africa) and standard Chinese.
China Radio International director Wang Gengnian said
in a statement the station will broadcast the latest
news from China and around the world and “the latest
on friendly exchanges between China and Kenya.”
Kodi Barth is a journalism lecturer at the United
States International University in Nairobi and writes
a column about the media in one of Kenya’s daily
newspapers. He tells VOA that he believes the new
radio station is connected with China’s increasing
economic activities and interests in Kenya and the
rest of East Africa.
Barth says Kenyans may initially tune into the station
out of curiosity, but will have trouble competing with
Voice of America, the British Broadcasting Corporation
(BBC), and other foreign heavyweights.
“Historically Kenyans seem to identify with the BBC,”
he said. “I think they occupy a market that’s hard to
beat, maybe because of Kenya’s history with Britain.
The Voice of America also, Kenyans tend to turn to VOA
when they’re looking for what they regard as
independent analysis of their country. Now I don’t see
that happening with the Chinese radio, maybe because
Kenyans haven’t perceived the Chinese as interested in
democratic space or independent views.”
China has been steadily increasing its influence and
economic activity in Africa over the past years. The
Trade Law Center for Southern Africa estimates trade
volume between China and African countries in 2005 at
over $37 billion (U.S.), a record high and a sharp
increase over the previous year’s less than $30
billion (U.S.). Much of this was due to increased
exports of oil to China, particularly from Sudan.
The Trade Law center adds that in the period, China
imported more goods and services from African
countries than it exported to them and that Chinese
investment in Africa is also expanding rapidly.
Official statistics show that in the first 10 months
of 2005, Chinese companies invested a total of $175
million in African countries. Investments went into a
wide range of areas, including trade, resource
development, transport, agriculture and processing of
Kenya and China signed a number of agreements during
Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki’s trip to China in August