President Uhuru Kenyatta has requested China to help finance the third phase of the Standard Gauge Railway.
Leading the Kenyan delegation to the 7th Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) summit in Beijing, Uhuru held talks with President Xi Jinping during which he sought assurances that half of the cost of $3.8 billion (Sh380 billion) extension of the SGR between Naivasha and Kisumu would be financed through a grant.
“I am very keen to develop the railway from Naivasha to Kisumu owing to its regional significance. I request that 50 per cent of the project be provided as part of grant financing,” said Uhuru.
He said the extension was strategic as it would take the SGR to the shores of Lake Victoria, opening up the economic potential of other countries like Malawi, Zambia, Tanzania, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda.
It would also open up access to South Sudan and Sudan.
“The SGR sits very well on the Belt and Road Initiative. It commences the envisaged land bridge between the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, opening up the interior for trade and investment across seven countries, and opening China to Central Africa, and further on, beyond the Atlantic Ocean,” said Uhuru.
“It is therefore my hope that your commitment to the SGR, which has been evident from the beginning, will go all the way to make this vision and its possibilities come true.”
Uhuru told the Xi that the second phase of the SGR from Nairobi to Naivasha was on schedule and would be completed in June next year.
“Kenya is satisfied with the tremendous progress achieved in our bilateral co-operation and continues to open up new areas of co-operation. The by-product of the SGR project is the accelerated human capacity building in the field of railway engineering,” he said.
The President also hailed the co-operation between the two countries in training.
“My government appreciates your government’s commitment to developing, jointly with our Railway Training Institute, the appropriate vocational and technical skills to ensure optimal management of the rail network on a sustainable basis,” said Uhuru.
“It is my ambition that we shall continue to strengthen our strategic and comprehensive partnership.”
He said the highest point of co-operation between the two countries was the SGR and that Kenyans had begun to reap its benefits.
Uhuru also secured Public-Private Partnership investment for two infrastructural projects - a 30km expressway from the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport across Westlands, Nairobi, and the development of Dongo Kundu Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Mombasa.
The Government also signed a financing agreement for construction of the Western by-pass in Nairobi.
“This bypass will complete the ring road network around Nairobi, and will ease mobility for millions of commuters,” said Uhuru.
He welcomed more investments in SEZs and industrial parks.
“I welcome the inaugural China International Import-Expo in Shanghai later this year. Kenya will participate at the highest level, and it is my hope we shall have concluded deals and arrangements that enable access of our products to the Chinese market,” he said.