Kenya has finally brought Uganda on board in the extension of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) line to Kampala and beyond. The two countries have inked a deal to source funds to build the rail at the same time so that cargo is moved seamlessly by rail from Mombasa port to landlocked countries.
The port serves Uganda, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), South Sudan and Burundi as well as northern Tanzania.
Uganda adopted a wait-and-see approach when Kenya built the SGR line from Mombasa to Naivasha at a cost of about Sh327 billion.
Kenya recently rehabilitated the Metre Gauge Railway (MGR) line from Naivasha to Malaba border to enhance transport.
In a joint communique signed at the Mombasa SGR terminus over the weekend, Transport Cabinet Secretary Kipchumba Murkomen and his Ugandan Counterpart Gen (Rtd) Katumba Wamala said the construction will start in December this year if their plan to raise funds succeeds.
The two said they were desirous of achieving a seamless railway transport from Mombasa to Kampala to fully open up the Northern Corridor and ensure its competitiveness.
The two ministers who signed the deal after a lengthy meeting at the Mombasa port said Kenya will extend the SGR line from Naivasha to Malaba covering a distance of about 368 kilometres while Uganda will do its part stretching 272km (kilometres) from the Malaba border to Kampala.
The two countries plan to raise resources from the Middle East, China, and elsewhere as a team to ensure that they start the SGR project at the same time.
Murkomen said the plan as a region is to extend the SGR line to DRC and open up the East Africa region for economic growth. He said the East African Community (EAC) had agreed in 2014 to have the SGR extended to connect and open up the region.
“We want to achieve seamless transportation of goods from Mombasa to Kampala by SGR. Kenya will extend the SGR line from Naivasha to Malaba while Uganda will construct the line from Malaba to Kampala,” he said.
He said the region was desirous to extend the SGR line to the DRC to open up the Northern Corridor and boost its competitiveness.
“It is of great benefit for both countries if we extend the SGR to Kampala. We are working as a team. We will ensure that goods are not stuck at the Malaba border,” Murkomen said, adding that they have been in discussion for the last four months.
The two ministers said the project was undergoing a feasibility study that will determine the cost of construction.
Wamala said although Uganda had delayed the SGR project, it was now determined to implement it and achieve seamless movement of goods and services from Mombasa.
“We may have delayed but we are going to get it done. This project will also support tourism. We believe it is viable,” he said. Wamala said the two countries will also rehabilitate the metre gauge railway and put it to good use.