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Standard Gauge Railway project transforming Kenyan lives

By STEVEN ZHAO | March 27th 2016

Since work started on the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) line between Mombasa and Nairobi on December 12, 2014, China Road and Bridge Construction (CRBC) has established itself as a major driver of socio-economic transformation in Kenya.

This is the core message in the CRBC’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Report 2015, which we launched recently in a global first for a Chinese firm operating abroad.

The SGR line is the biggest infrastructure project ever undertaken in the region, cognisant of the critical significance of the project, CRBC, which is the EPC (Engineering, Procurement and Construction) contractor on the venture, has been implementing the SGR project with utmost sensitivity to the socio-economic needs of the Kenyan society and long-term sustainability in mind.

Responsible corporate citizenship and sustainability, anchored on an active Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) platform, is thus something that we do not just sloganeer and talk about. It is at the core of our business at all our sites all over the world, and Kenya is no exception.

The ethos is alive in actual construction, where we are guided by utmost sensitivity to life in all its forms: human, plant and animal. Work on each segment starts only on receipt of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report by a qualified consultant and certification by Kenyan authorities, including the National Environmental Management Agency (NEMA).

In tandem with its principle of “green” construction, the CRBC has adopted an animal-friendly design that provides for free movement of animals through the incorporation of viaducts and watering points along the route. This is critical since the SGR route traverses a number of key conservation areas.

The CRBC has today emerged as one of the biggest employers in Kenya outside government. A whopping 38,000 Kenyans have been employed on the project, while a further 19,000 workers and 4,000 technicians have been trained. A training programme for operation and maintenance of the SGR project is under way. The first batch of 25 students out of a total of 60 sponsored through CRBC scholarships will be leaving for China to study railway engineering as undergraduates for four years, creating a pool of talent for railway development.

This training programme denotes that the contractor is living up to its contractual obligations that require knowledge transfer and capacity building for locals. Use of local content by CRBC has been another highlight of the project, spawning a dependable revenue streams for local firms and creating jobs. Since inception, the CRBC has engaged some 934 local suppliers of materials, equipment and services. Further, some 212 sub-contractors are working together with CRBC on the SGR project.

Aware of the sometimes disruptive effect of its operations, the firm has also instituted a diverse portfolio of projects aimed at improving lives of all Kenyans and especially those living along the SGR corridor. The CRCB has undertaken to mitigate the effects of its construction work and improve the living standards of Kenyans are interventions such as construction of boreholes, school facilities, trading premises, sports grounds and feeder roads, among others.

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