Chinese Investments Fuel Growth in African Science
By Antoaneta Roussi
Inside a greenhouse on the edge of Nairobi, a small crate holds the hopes of Robert Gituru and a team of researchers from Kenya and China. It is filled with healthy bunches of red and green grapes — some of the first ever produced in central Africa.
The grapes are varieties developed by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and designed to thrive in warm, semi-arid environments. A joint Kenyan–Chinese team has been growing them with the aim of planting the seeds of a wine-producing industry in Kenya.
“It’s got some people here very excited,” says Gituru, director of the Sino-Africa Joint Research Centre, a facility established with the help of CAS that opened last November in the grounds of the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.
Grapes aren’t the only crop that the centre has received from CAS; the academy has also brought strains of rice that have the potential to increase Kenya’s production by more than one-third, according to Gituru. Chinese researchers have also introduced a method of using plastic sheets to preserve soil humidity for fields planted with maize (corn).
Photo courtesy of DFID.