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SGR crucial in sustaining Kenya's trade powerhouse status

 SGR cargo train at the Naivasha Inland Container Depot in Nakuru County. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

I could not agree more with the Dutch Ambassador to Kenya Maarten Brouwer that Kenya is one of the fastest growing economies in Africa and the largest economy in East Africa.

To echo his words in an article that appeared in The Standard yesterday, the development of transport and infrastructure is imperative to our country's position on the continent's global value chains as logistics are key components of world trade. The ambassador opined the position will remain critical for the country as the Africa Continental Free Trade Area gains momentum.

The impact of SGR is not in doubt.  From its inception to June 2023, Madaraka Express had ferried 10, 402, 001 passengers while the Freight Service had moved 26,190, 264 tons of cargo.  The Meter Gauge Railway connecting Kisumu and Malaba has also been revamped. This has enabled Kenya Railways to deliver the highest-ever economic impact across the East African region.

Kenya is strategically using the SGR to enhance tourism. Mo Yan, a Chinese Nobel Prize winner in literature after using the SGR from Mombasa to Nairobi encouraged more Chinese to visit Africa. To alleviate the fears perpetuated by Western media, Mo Yan encouraged Chinese tourists to visit Africa and get a better understanding of the continent. This will contribute to Sino-Africa bilateral friendship and cooperation.

As the SGR continues to expand, it propels urbanisation along its route, fostering economic growth and generating employment opportunities. The SGR has contributed to rise of new towns and villages along its route, stimulating trade and economic growth.

Diverse professions

During its construction, the SGR project created jobs totalling 30,000. It also employed approximately 2,285 staff from diverse professions at the 33 stations and in the passenger and cargo areas.

Of this, approximately 270 staff are of Chinese origin and more than 30 per cent of the management staff are local. This has a cascading effect on poverty eradication and wealth creation.

The SGR’s environmental conservation impact is remarkable. By shifting to rail transport, the SGR has reduced carbon emission, alleviating road congestion, and contributing to ecological sustainability.

Further, in line with the shared principle of building an ecological civilisation that reconciles development and the natural environment, 14 wildlife channels were also built over the 120km part of the line traversing through Kenya’s Tsavo National Park. This has enabled the animals to move freely without affecting their habitat.

However, it is noteworthy that the running cost of the SGR every year is about USD45 million. As a public good, SGR is not for profit. It is key for national development. As of August 23, 2023, the Mombasa-Nairobi phase of SGR, built by the China Road and Bridge Corporation, marked 2,305 days of continuous operation.

The writer is a Strategic Communication specialist in the transport and logistics sector

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