New railway lays foundation for Kenya’s industrialization

By Wang Wenwen Source:Global Times Published: 2017/5/31 0:33:39

It is one of the most momentous events in the history of transportation in Kenya. The 480-kilometer China-funded railway linking Kenya's largest port city of Mombasa to its capital Nairobi, slated to be launched on Wednesday, is expected to bring a wide spectrum of benefits to the East African country.

The Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) is the country's biggest infrastructure project since independence. Kenya will no longer need to bet on the now dilapidated "Lunatic Line," the Kenya-Uganda Railway built a century and a quarter ago. The "Lunatic Line" was so named because its construction cost the lives of thousands of laborers who were killed by malaria and even lions. It was built by the colonial British government to tighten control over its African colony and get access to resource-rich Uganda.

Kenya's Transport Minister James Macharia said in a media interview, "There is no country which has ever developed without having a very robust railway system." While Kenya wants to boost its development that was dragged down by its antiquated railways, China is set to facilitate this process.

According to figures from a social responsibility report regarding the SGR project released by the China Communication Construction Company, parent company of the China Road and Bridge Corporation which built the line, the project has created over 46,000 jobs for locals and the number of those who received training reached 45,000. It will also add an estimated 1.5 percentage points to the country's GDP growth.

China has been pushing forward its Belt and Road initiative which aims to build trade and infrastructure networks connecting Asia with Europe and Africa. It involves immense projects with countries along and beyond the ancient Silk Road trade routes, including Kenya.

Over the years, China has gained experience through its overseas activities. China's assistance in the construction of the Tanzania-Zambia railway in the 1960s and 1970s has become a model in China's history of foreign aid. While aid is an important policy instrument for China to engage with Africa, China's investment in the continent is also growing.

The SGR project will be managed by Chinese staff for five years during which time Kenyans will be trained to take over. China seeks a return for its investment and Kenya will pay back what it has borrowed to develop its economy. Both the Chinese companies and the local governments will bring this railway into full use, and the robust and fair cooperation will drive the two sides to work on more infrastructure projects in the future. Through the Kenya-Uganda Railway, the colonial British government shipped large quantities of resources out of Africa, but the colonists never helped the country build an industrial system. SGR, on the contrary, is a basis upon which China will help it realize industrialization.

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