As Kenya braces for the second Phase of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), the first Phase is up and running with a potential to turn around the country’s economy.
The phase one project whose construction works commenced in December 2014 andwas completed in May this year, has created opportunities for various sectors among them manufacturing, where locals are given priority to supply materials like cement, steel, sand and food.
The Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure, Housing and Urban Development (CS), James Macharia said besides significantly reducingthe congestion and delays of cargo at the entry port of Mombasa,SGR has raised the status of the port to being efficient and increased the number of users.
Since the commencement of the Madaraka Express Passenger and freight service operations, it has ferried a total of 1.35 million passengers and removed over 600 trucks that were ferrying goods on the corridor between Mombasa and Nairobi, said the CS.
He added that the six pairs of freight trains moving daily has also significantly lowered the cost of doing business and brought the much desired order to the freight transportation sector.
Speaking during a three-day seminar on China-Africa Cooperation in Africa at a Nairobi hotel, the CS said the government had resolved to overhaul the railway sector built over 100 years ago, as it’s meter gauge railway system had serious limitations in technology and capacity.
Macharia said, This is the largest project to be undertaken in Kenya since independence. We are happy that it will save the economy on road repairs, fuel, trucks maintenance, time and spares, as well as improve port evacuation processes.
China-Africa cooperation provides an opportunity for the former to improve the continent’s transport infrastructure which includes rails, road and air transport infrastructure.
The CS said the benefits of SGR are in line with the government’s Big Four Agenda, noting that the development of a special economic zone within Mai Mahiu in Suswa will allow for the establishment of manufacturing factories of various products thereby creating employment for youth.
The Special economic zone will also promote exports for the country and overall improvement of our gross domestic product growth in the long term.
The CS who commended the Chinese government for its commitment to work with the Kenya in ensuring that infrastructure and other developments are attained, expressed confidence that the addition of 11 freight service trains in November this year, will remove 1,650 trucks from the road.
He said the country is proud that 100 Kenyan students were studying for various railway degree courses in China whereas the local Railway Training Institute (RTI) is training Kenyans and citizens from other countries in both skilled and semi-skilled manpower to operate in the railway system in the country and beyond.
Last year’s 858 graduands from RTI were employed by Madaraka Express. The Institute is currently training over 600 students.
Macharia said Kenya is hopeful that it will export expertise and skilled labour to neighbouring countries once they begin the construction of the SGR in their countries.
In her remarks, the Chinese Ambassador to Kenya, Sun Baohong said China is delighted that SGR has substantially increased the transportation efficiency from the port of Mombasa to the inland thereby benefiting the economic development of the African region.
The Chinese government wants SGR to be made into a gold brand that will never fade and as a catalyst of Kenya’s economic growth, she said.
Amb. Baohong noted that the economic take off of African countries, Kenya included, cannot be realized without the elevation of infrastructure, saying countries that want to be rich must build roads and bridges, which she attributed to China’s success.
Infrastructure Cooperation is one of the priorities of China � Africa Cooperation under the ‘Belt and Road’ Initiative. The Mombasa-Nairobi SGR is an achievement of the initiative and the China- Africa Industrial Capacity Cooperation.
Source: Kenya News Agency