China back to funding SGR linking Kenya, Uganda

Kenya has secured a commitment from China’s Exim Bank for the funding of the standard gauge railway line from Naivasha to the Uganda border.

Kipchumba Murkomen, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary of Roads and Transport, said that Pan-African lender African Development Bank and Kenya’s own Railway Development Fund would complement the Chinese as Nairobi and Kampala continue to woo more financiers for the cross-border project.

Mr Murkomen spoke to The EastAfrican as President William Ruto hosted his Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni last week at State House, Nairobi, where the two leaders threw their weight behind the joint project, which is meant to go all the way to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The line will provide the required regional competitive advantage to improve regional connectivity with links to Uganda, South Sudan, Rwanda and DRC.

There is pressure on Kenya and Uganda to extend it to the Great Lakes region, especially the resource-rich DRC, as Tanzania pushes on with its electrified line headed in the same direction on the Central Corridor.

Tanzania’s US$7,6 billion project runs over 1 600km from Dar es Salaam to Mwanza on the shores of Lake Victoria and Kigoma along Lake Tanganyika. It is being built in five phases by contractors from Turkey and China. The phases are at various stages of construction.

Completion rates are 98 percent for the 300km Dar-Morogoro stretch, and 96 percent for the 442 kilometres Morogoro to Makutopora line.

Makutopora-Tabora is at 14 percent, Tabora-Isaka at five percent and the Mwanza to Isaka is at 54 percent completion. The entire project is expected to be completed by 2025.

In April, Dodoma received the first batch of electric locomotives that will run on the SGR, and the government said operations are set to begin in July. The locomotives, acquired from Hyundai Rotem in South Korea, can carry up to 589 passengers and travel at average speeds of 160km per hour.

The announcement that Beijing had committed to put the project back on track came a week after Rwanda, Burundi, DRC and South Sudan joined the SGR Cluster Joint Ministerial Committee and committed to engage development partners in seeking funding for the railway.

“The financing of the proposed project will be done under a government-to-government arrangement between the Republic of Kenya and the People’s Republic of China through the Exim Bank of China and syndicated loans from Commercial Banks,” Mr Murkomen said.

“The government of Kenya shall fund the project through the Railway Development Levy Fund.”

Last Thursday, in a joint communiqué read by President Ruto, Uganda and Kenya emphasised the importance of extending the SGR not only from Naivasha to Malaba but to Kampala and DRC as an efficient and sustainable Infrastructural artery for the transportation of goods.

“We have obliged our respective Ministers to take joint urgent measures to mobilise resources for the implementation of this regional shared infrastructure and report on progress by the end of 2024,” Dr Ruto said.

Uganda is expected to start the construction of Malaba-Kampala segment in September.

President Museveni said he was happy with the progress made.

“My only resolution is to put it in a historical perspective as to why it is happening now and not long ago. Uganda is part of Kenya, Tanzania and DRC,” Mr Museveni said.

Each partner is seeking around US$6 billion from multiple lenders to jump-start the project, which stalled after the pull-out of China, the initial financier. -The East African




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