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Kenyatta to attend infrastructure summit in Beijing next week

Kenyatta is expected to lobby for funding for the extension of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) from Naivasha to Kisumu, a project estimated to cost Sh380 billion/FILE

NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 20 – President Uhuru Kenyatta is expected in Beijing next week to attend the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) forum, a Chinese-government cross-national infrastructure roadmap involving some 150 countries and multinationals.

Kenyatta is expected to lobby for funding for the extension of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) from Naivasha to Kisumu, a project estimated to cost Sh380 billion.

The government is understood to have proposed the splitting of the cost for the 270 km line into a loan and a grant.

China Global Television Network in September last year quoted a source within the presidency as saying President Kenyatta had requested his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, to provide fifty per cent of the $3.8 billion required for the project as grant citing the regional significance of the SGR extension to Kisumu which is expected to be linked to a Ugandan line through Malaba.

During his September 2018 visit to Beijing, Kenyatta signed a deal for the construction of two roads in the North Eastern region – Modogashe-Habaswein-Samatar road and Elwak-Rhamu road – at the cost of Sh15 billion.

Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma Friday chaired a session with the Asian Directorate to review Kenya’s preparation for the 2nd Summit of the initiative otherwise known as the One Belt One Road.

Arguably China’s largest foreign-policy project, the initiative has seen the rollout of modern railway networks in Kenya and Ethiopia, Nairobi having signed a cooperation framework with China in 2014, a year after President Xi announced the program.

Kenya is currently completing the second phase of a 120 km SGR line linking the capital to Naivasha at the cost of Sh 150 billion.

The line connecting the port city of Mombasa to Nairobi has been operational since May 31, 2017.

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The 485 km Mombasa-Nairobi link was completed at the cost of Sh327 billion.

The completion of the SGR extension to Kisumu and the finally to the border in Malaba is seen as crucial to Kampala’s efforts to secure funding for a similar infrastructure will connect the capital to Tororo, Gugu, Mpondwe, Bihanga, and Mirama.

Ugandan Finance Minister Matia Kasaija had earlier in the year indicated that the country was still in talks with the Export-Import Bank of China as the government announced a compensation program for citizens affected as the process of acquiring land for the project kicked off.

Yoweri Museveni’s government received a €21.5 million funding from the European Union in 2018 to repair an aging 375 km metre-gauge railway line between Tororo and Gulu, casting doubt on Uganda’s commitment to the SGR project.

During his March visit to Kenya, Museveni seemingly endorsed the project taking a ride from Mombasa to Nairobi at the end of his State Visit to the country.

The proposed Ugandan line is expected to measure 1,724 km with four main sections – Kampala-Malaba, Kampala-Mpondwe, Bihanga-Mirama Hill, and Tororo-Gulu.

Other regional States in the SGR development blueprint are Rwanda, South Sudan, and Democratic Republic of Congo.

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