Kenya has extended its landmark railway project by 120 kilometers, a move that is expected to significantly help the country’s and Africa’s economic takeoff.
The new line, linking Nairobi, the capital, with the resort town of Naivasha, was built using Chinese technology and standards, as was the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway.
Located in northwest Kenya, the project, dubbed phase 2A, has buoyed Kenyans’ confidence that the Chinese-funded infrastructure, built at a cost of about $1.5 billion, would accelerate regional integration and boost trade at a time when Africa is implementing a continent-wide free-trade zone agreement.
Analysts said the infrastructure, a crucial segment of the Northern Corridor project linking the port of Mombasa with the Great Lakes Region’s landlocked states, shows Kenya’s determination to be an infrastructure hub. That would help strengthen the regional investment environment, since it would significantly lower the cost of production and improve access to markets, they said.
Nyongesa Lemmy, a senior policy analyst at the Africa Policy Institute, a Nairobi-based think tank, said the government’s move to couple the modern railway with an inland container depot and a 1,000-acre (405-hectare) special economic zone buoys the region’s industrialization ambitions.
Besides decongesting the port of Mombasa, the efficiency of the railway network would facilitate faster and safer transportation of freight to and from the port, Lemmy said.
“I think one of the biggest challenges investors have been facing is a reliable transport system from the hinterlands to the port. Nontariff barriers such as unscheduled roadblocks have always resulted in delays in delivery of goods and have bred corruption. I think (a reliable system) would be one of the immediate benefits the region would witness.”
While inaugurating the railway on Wednesday, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said investments made by China in Kenya’s infrastructure expansion indicate growing confidence in the country’s ambitions. The government is therefore committed to developing conducive policies and a regulatory framework to further improve the investment environment, he said.
An inland port near one of the train stations will become a distribution center in East Africa, with traders from Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo picking up goods and setting up offices there.
Kenya used to rely on a more than 100-year-old meter gauge railway to Uganda as a major east-west transportation line. The country is replacing it with a new standard gauge railway with Chinese financing of about $400 million, which would provide a seamless link to the corridor as countries in the interior start linking their modern railway infrastructure to Kenya’s.
Rajneesh Bhuee, a consulting economist based in Nairobi, said the Nairobi-Naivasha project has already boosted cross-border trade.
The project, which crosses Nairobi National Park and the Great Rift Valley, is expected to stimulate investments in manufacturing and tourism, Kenya’s second-largest source of foreign exchange.
Wu Peng, China’s ambassador to Kenya, said: “More business will be benefited, more jobs will be created. Therefore, I believe the seeds of hope we sow today will definitely grow up in the near future.”
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta flags off the new train linking Nairobi and Naivasha, Kenya, on Wednesday at the Nairobi terminus of the standard gauge railway line, which was built by China Road and Bridge Corp and financed by the Chinese government.Thomas Mukoya/reuters
(China Daily Global 10/18/2019 page）