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China becomes Kenya's trusted infrastructure partner

05 August 2016, 16:22

Nairobi - With some 50 Chinese companies working on various projects to improve Kenya's infrastructure, analysts say China has become the east African nation's trusted infrastructure development partner.

"The building of roads, ports and railways is at the heart of Kenya's economic growth. It is a sign of better ties between Kenya and China, which translates to prosperity," said Eric Mangunyi, a Strategic Management expert at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa in Nairobi.

Initially concentrated on roads, the Chinese investment in Kenya has over the years grown to span more areas such as power generation, water and railway transport as well as housing.

Topping the list of projects being undertaken by the Chinese is the 3.6 billion U.S. dollars Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), which runs from Mombasa, at the Kenyan Coast to the border with Uganda.

The China-funded project being built by the China Roads and Bridges Corporation is billed as the most ambitious in the East African nation since independence in 1963.

It features eight underpasses that cross over the world-renowned Tsavo National Park and has 98 bridges.

According to the Kenya Railways Corporation, the SGR, as is fondly known in the country, is about 75 percent complete and would be completed a year ahead of schedule.

"We will start to import 60 locomotive engines, 1,620 wagons and 40 passenger coaches at the end of this year," said Atanas Maina, Kenya Railway managing director in a recent interview.

He noted that there are 33 stations along the line, two of which will be the traffic hubs at both ends, 23 will be passing stations and eight transitional ones.

Kenyans are waiting with bated breath the completion of the railway, with citizens terming it as a panacea to many transport challenges they face.

"Once the railway is operational, I do not think I will board a bus to Mombasa to visit my parents. I am told the ten-hour journey by bus will be shortened by almost half. I cannot wait for the new train service," Ismail Abdalla, a resident of Mombasa, who works in Nairobi, said Thursday.

To Judith Kwamboka, a resident of Kitengela some 32km from Nairobi, a commuter train operated on the line that passes in the suburb is her hope for better commuting in coming years.

Away from the railway, the Chinese are working on various energy projects, but the coal one in Eastern Kenya stands out as it marks a new beginning in power production in the country that had relied on hydropower.

Coal is set to provide up to 2,400MW of electricity by 2030 as per the Least Cost Power Development Plan 2011/2031 of the Energy and Petroleum ministry.

Another Chinese company is working on the Garissa Solar Park project in Northern Kenya.

The 200-acre plant is expected to boost the development of the region hit hard by extremism and terror attacks, and will produce 76,470MW per year, while reducing carbon emissions by 64,190 tonnes annually.

At the Kenyan Coast, the Chinese are building another ambitious project dubbed the Lamu Port to connect the East and Central Africa.

The port is part of the 24 billion U.S. dollars project expected to be Kenya's second transport corridor and will be completed in three years.

According to Presidential Strategic Communication Unit, in the past 14 years, China has funded 70 development projects in Kenya, a good number of which are complete.

They range from 108 million-U.S. dollar grant from Chinese government to build the North and East Ring Road sections in Nairobi to the multi-billion loan to finance the Standard Gauge Railway. 

- Xinhua

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