China funded Kenyan railway creates more than 46,000 local jobs

By Cao Siqi Source:Global Times Published: 2017/5/31 0:48:39

China-funded $3.8b project crucial to East African modernization


Photo taken on May 10, 2017 shows the Emali station on Kenya's Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway (SGR). (Xinhua/Chen Cheng)


 
A China-funded railway linking Kenya's largest port city of Mombasa to the capital Nairobi will make its first trip on Wednesday, with experts predicting that the project will be crucial to modernizing East African nations.

Construction on the $3.8 billion 480-kilometer Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) began in 2014, 90 percent of which is funded by the Export-Import Bank of China. The infrastructure project is believed to be the biggest in Kenya since its independence in 1963.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Chinese State Councilor Wang Yong are scheduled to attend the ceremony marking the completion of the railway project, the Xinhua News Agency reported. 

Kenyatta will officially launch SGR operations at Port Riz where the cargo train from Mombasa will be flagged off. A passenger train left Nairobi at 2 pm Monday and arrived in Mombasa at around 7 pm, local newspaper The Star reported.

The SGR is expected to shorten travel time between Nairobi and Mombasa, and facilitate efficient cargo transportation. Passenger trains will travel at 120 kilometers per hour, with freight trains at 80 kilometers per hour with a load of 25 million tons per year.

Regional model

"The old Uganda Railway, which links the interiors of Uganda and Kenya with the Indian Ocean at Mombasa, can no longer meet the requirements of modern container transport. The Mombasa-Nairobi line will be a milestone in Kenya's economic development and serve as a model for the East African region," said Wang Duanyong, an expert on China's infrastructure projects and investments in Africa at the Shanghai International Studies University. 

However, Wang noted that Kenya, East Africa's largest economy, has the region's highest unemployment rate, with a UN report saying that 39.1 percent of working age Kenyans are unemployed compared to Tanzania's 24 percent, Uganda's 18.1 percent and Rwanda's 17.1 percent. The Mombasa-Nairobi railway has created tremendous job opportunities, as the Chinese company promised that 90 percent of those hired will be local. 

A report published by China Communications Construction Company (CCCC), the parent company of the China Road and Bridge Corporation which built the project, said the SGR project has created more than 46,000 local jobs. Estimates also show the project would add 1.5 percentage points to Kenya's GDP growth.

At a press conference in Kenya on Monday, Kenya's Ministry of Transport Principal Secretary Paul Maringa Mwangi noted that over 934 local cement and wood manufacturers and equipment suppliers said the railway rapidly increased their sales, with over 300 sub-contractors participating in the project.

The project has also benefited several industries, including steel, power generation and glass-making, indirectly generating 10,000 jobs.

The railway is also part of a "master plan" of East African leaders to connect their nations by rail, with plans to eventually link Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan, and Burundi.

"If East African nations use the same rail standards and technology, it will greatly modernize the region," Wang said.

Wang noted that the railway will also accelerate cooperation in production capacity between China and Kenya, and even the East African region, as "it will largely improve China's export of infrastructure teams and equipment."

'Ridiculous' comparison

But the project is not without its critics. A BBC report said the new railway line could be another "lunatic line," as it passes through a national park where thousands of railway workers died while building the Uganda Railway, and may harm the local environment.

"When the Uganda Railway was being built between 1896 and 1901, it faced huge construction difficulties, including clashes among local tribes and poor worker protection. However, times have changed. Chinese companies have advanced technologies and provide full protection to its employees. Such a comparison is ridiculous," Wang said.

"One must strike a balance between development and environment protection. It should be stressed that the railway is not the 'forced sale' of the Chinese government but the Kenyan government's choice," he said.

He also noted that the railway's carrying capacity depends on the development of manufacturing in Kenya.

A train runs on Kenya's Mombasa-Nairobi Railway on May 18, 2017. The 480 km railway linking Kenya's largest port city Mombasa to capital Nairobi, slated to be officially launched on May 31, will be a key infrastructure project that will push forward the East Africa nation's modernization drive, a senior company executive said May 29. (Xinhua/Sun Ruibo)


 

A train runs on Kenya's Mombasa-Nairobi Railway on May 29, 2017. The 480 km railway linking Kenya's largest port city Mombasa to capital Nairobi, slated to be officially launched on May 31, will be a key infrastructure project that will push forward the East Africa nation's modernization drive, a senior company executive said Monday. (Xinhua/Pan Siwei)


 


A train runs out of one station of Kenya's Mombasa-Nairobi Railway on May 29, 2017. The 480 km railway linking Kenya's largest port city Mombasa to capital Nairobi, slated to be officially launched on May 31, will be a key infrastructure project that will push forward the East Africa nation's modernization drive, a senior company executive said Monday. (Xinhua/Sun Ruibo)


 


Newspaper headline: New Kenyan railway opens, brings jobs



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