NAIROBI, Kenya Aug 19 – Today marks exactly three years since President Uhuru Kenyatta visited China to meet his host Xi Jinping with whom they agreed to strengthen bilateral ties between the two countries after witnessing the signing of the MoU on financing the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR).
It is during the meeting held on August 19, 2013 that the China-Kenya Comprehensive Cooperative Partnership featuring equality, mutual trust, mutual benefit and win-win outcome was signed-opening up for massive infrastructural developments undertaken in the country with strict deadlines.
A year later in May 2014, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visited Kenya and witnessed-together with President Kenyatta, Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni, Paul Kagame of Rwanda and South Sudan’s Salva Kiir, the signing of the agreement to finance the massive railway project.
Chinese Ambassador to the East African economic power house Liu Xianfa says the partnership has hit a “historic height, bringing along more and more tangible benefits to the peoples of both countries.”
In Liu’s view, “Chinese investment in Kenya and China-Kenya trade keep booming” even further from the USD6 billion in 2015 which was twice as much as that of 2013.
“China has become the largest trading partner, investor and contractor of Kenya. Bilateral financial cooperation registered new progress. China has initiated cooperation on direct currency exchange with Kenya,” Liu told participants at a China-Africa Media and Think-Tank Symposium held in Mombasa last week.
Two Chinese construction companies are involved in the construction of the USD3.8 billion Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) project from Mombasa to Nairobi covering a distance of 472.25 kilometres which is estimated be completed by December.
“This is not just a railway for Kenyans,” James Macharia, Kenya’s Transport Cabinet Secretary told the participants at the symposium. “It will proceed from Nairobi to connect Uganda, South Sudan and Rwanda.” There are also plans at a later stage to extend it to Congo.
So far the contractors have done 90 percent on civil works and are already ahead of the scheduled time to have it completed by December, in time for testing which will start in January.
“This is the first government project to be completed ahead of time. Seven months ahead of time,” Macharia said, lauding China as “pace setters.” Phase two of the project will stretch from Nairobi to Naivasha.
Gerishom Ikiara, a diplomacy lecturer at the University of Nairobi who served as Permanent Secretary in the Transport Ministry said Kenya had been told in 2008 that it cannot afford an SGR.
“We were also told that there was no demand for it, and that we can only afford it after 30 years,” Ikiara said in his presentation to the symposium, “Today, it’s done by 90 percent, thanks to the friendly conditions from China through the Exim Bank.”
The project is the largest infrastructure project with a Chinese concessional loan, the biggest individual overseas project constructed by a Chinese company and the largest overseas project implemented by