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SGR to accelerate county-based growth for Kenyans

By A. K. Maina | Published Tue, January 10th 2017 at 00:00, Updated January 9th 2017 at 21:34 GMT +3
An engineer keeps an eye to make sure the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) locomotive lands well on the railway as it was being off-loaded from MV Kota Bistari soon after the ship docked at the port of Mombasa, January 09, 2017. [PHOTO BY GIDEON MAUNDU/STANDARD].

A lot has been said about the proposed route of the recently launched SGR Phase 2A. Conservationists have been on a lobbying verve about the route because it will pass over the Nairobi National Park.

On the other hand, economists have viewed the route as the most viable, citing cost and the expected economic impact as it traverses the Western side of the Rift Valley all the way to Lake Victoria.

Although statistics show very clearly how Kenya’s economy has grown in size and its importance in the past century, one incontrovertible growth of Kenya’s urban centres has been the impact that the Railway line had on most of the regions it crossed.

The capital city of this great nation was born out of the need to host and maintain the workforce that was involved in the laborious assignment of constructing the railway line.

Nearly all the towns from the port of Mombasa to Busia border attribute their continuous growth to the railway line. In fact, Nakuru town’s prowess as an Agribusiness hub was connected to the arrival of the lunatic express.

The benefits from the growth of urban centres are already well known: greater employment opportunities, higher wages and salaries, better standards of living owing to economies of scale, higher productive capacities owing to spatial agglomeration, more and better social services, more varied cultural and spiritual opportunities, and so on.

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These benefits can be economic, social, and cultural, with the economic benefits spread out all over the country, through the income and employment opportunities associated with it.

The central role of urban centers in national economies remains key in developing countries than in developed countries.

According to “The Economic Role of Cities” report by the UN HABITAT and published by the World Bank, Sao Paulo has 10.5 percent of the country’s population and generates 19.5 percent of GDP. Shanghai, with a 1.2 percent of population share generates 2.9 percent of GDP. Buenos Aires, with a 32.5 percent of population produces 63.2 percent of GDP. Mumbai, with 2 percent of population, accounts for 6.3 percent of GDP.

In Africa, Nairobi, with 9 percent of population, generates 20 percent of GDP, Dar es Salaam, with 7.9 percent of population, accounts for 14.9 percent of GDP. In actual sense, Nairobi generates more than 100 percent higher GDP than its population share.

Evidently, the role of urban centres in economic growth cannot be overlooked. While the Mombasa –Nairobi route has spurred growth in the old towns that had slumbered due to the inactivity of the old line, the phase two route will see the birth of new additional urban centres across the Counties that the line will traverse through on its way to Kenya’s landlocked neighbours.

Just like Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, Eldoret and Busia, the new urban centres will become the decentralized financial, commercial, investment, and communications hubs of their respective counties.

Without a doubt, the new route will have an environmental impact on the human lives, flora and fauna during the construction phase; however the design of the line and its inherent structure will ensure that the line causes minimal disruption within the conservancies it crosses through.

Being a market-based economy, all the key sectors including agriculture, mining, industrial manufacturing, energy, tourism and financial services will be rejuvenated by the project as well as the mushrooming urban centres that will sprout along the line.

Our liberalised external trade system will definitely play a key role in the growth of our nation; the 72nd largest economy in the world.