SGR contractor bids to win hearts with projects along rail line

The company contracted to build the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) is to hand over the project to the Government next year. But China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) is not just settling for handing over a railway track and its supporting infrastructure.

The Chinese firm also wants to leave Kenya with socio-economic projects that have life-changing effects for host communities along the railway corridor between Mombasa and Nairobi.

Positive impact

Most of these projects have been executed under CRBC’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme.

“We see ourselves as not just here in Kenya to build a railway track between Mombasa and Nairobi. We see ourselves as a force for good; a transformative agent among the people in the areas we operate,” said Steven Zhao, the manager of external relations and co-operation at CRBC.

“We measure success by our ability to positively impact the lives of Kenyans. To us, CSR is not just a corporate fad or an empty slogan in boardrooms. It is at the core of everything we do; it is our business.”

The biggest beneficiaries of some of the projects CRBC has undertaken are in the eight SGR corridor counties of Mombasa, Kilifi, Kwale, Taita Taveta, Makueni, Machakos, Kajiado and Nairobi.

CRBC’s inventory of CSR projects along the corridor is broad, but one of the areas in which the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor for SGR has been particularly active in is the construction of boreholes, which it shares with host communities.

It has also been involved in the construction of roads, something that will become useful once SGR is operational by improving inter-nodal transport between the railway line and existing road infrastructure, especially in rural counties.

Some of the new roads the firm has put up would, under ordinary circumstances, be constructed by national or county governments.

Among the new roads CRBC has built from scratch are two in Kwale (DK15 and DK20) to improve connectivity in rural parts of the county. It has also constructed a road in Mtito Andei to ease the pressure of traffic on existing roads in the key commercial town. A new road has also been built in Machakos County.

Commercial town

Besides construction, CRBC has also repaired a number of existing roads to improve their utility, including in Voi Town in Taita Taveta County, and Utithi, Uto, Ikoyo, Kiboko and Konza in Makueni County.

The boreholes CRBC has sunk in parts of the SGR corridor that have an endemic water problem are currently being shared by the firm and locals, but are expected to be handed over for sole use by the latter once SGR is commissioned. Boreholes have been sunk in Mtito Andei, Kinyambu, Kibwezi, Kivati, Mang’elete and Kathekani.

To capture its socio-economic impact, CRBC launched its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Report 2015 in March, which was a global first for a Chinese firm operating abroad.

The company added that its CSR activities also extend to construction, where it said it is guided by sensitivity to human, plant and animal life. Work on each segment of a project starts only on receipt of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report from a qualified consultant, and certification from local authorities, including the National Environmental Management Agency (Nema), CRBC said.

On SGR, the firm has adopted an animal-friendly design that provides for free movement of wildlife through the incorporation of viaducts and watering points along the route. The railway line is one of the flagship projects under Vision 2030, the country’s economic development blueprint.