Anita Plummer | Africa
The Kenyan government’s long-term development strategy, Vision 2030, has emphasized infrastructural investments, which it believes will lead to sustained economic growth. The government has appealed to China to fund large-scale projects in the transport sector, and as a consequence of this, construction firms from China have emerged as significant employers in the country. While the Kenyan government contends with the ongoing burden of youth unemployment, it must also reconcile the ambiguities of China’s role in Africa and its implications for the labour market. This article examines two Chinese-built infrastructure projects in Kenya and their intersection with several issues involving migrant labour and local rumours of Chinese prisoners, as well as the state’s vision for industrialization and youth employment. Kenyans utilize both online and interpersonal channels of discourse to critique present-day employment practices in the transport sector, and it is argued that these counter-channels of discourse represent a particular articulation of knowledge used by Kenyans to construct meaning and interpret ambiguous situations. Through a theoretical analysis of rumour, this article illustrates how ordinary Kenyans are pooling their intellectual resources to understand Sino-Kenyan labour relations in the absence of transparency and participatory government processes in the infrastructure sector.