Nairobi — Regional leaders have formally signed the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) deal with China which will fund and build the first phase line connecting Kenya to other regional countries.
The deal was signed at State House Nairobi, witnessed by Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta, Uganda's Yoweri Museveni, South Sudan's Salva Kiir and Paul Kagame of Rwanda.
The deal saw the signing of two agreements where Exim Bank of China will provide 90percent of the $3.8 billion (Sh331billion) required for the construction of the SGR to Nairobi, while the Kenyan government will provide the remaining 10 percent.
The first phase of the project will cover 609.3 kilometers from the port of Mombasa to Nairobi.
The agreements for the construction and financing of the project were signed by Treasury Cabinet secretary Henry Rotich and the president of China Exim Bank Li Ruogu.
President Kenyatta described the signing of the deal as a milestone in improving infrastructural development in the region which has lagged behind for centuries.
"The relationship between ourselves and China is based on mutual trust, because we are pursuing inclusive development and promoting inventive practical cooperation," Kenyatta said.
The project set to kick off in October will be completed in three and half years and will pass through 8 counties including Mombasa, Kilifi, Kwale, Taita-Taveta, Makueni, Kajiado, Machakos and Nairobi.
The new multi-billion railway project to be undertaken by the China Communications and Construction Company will later stretch to Kampala, Uganda then to Kigali in Rwanda, and finally to Juba in South Sudan, covering a total of 2,935 kilometers.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang who led a high-powered delegation said the signing of the financing agreement of the deal is a major milestone in enhancing the partnership between Africa and China.
"This project demonstrates that there is equal cooperation and mutual benefit between China and the East African countries, and the railway is a very important part of transport infrastructure development," Li said.
Li challenged the company undertaking the project and others involved to ensure they follow the required regulations, and beat set deadlines.
"We also challenge the relevant Chinese equipment providing company to ensure they will supply the best possible quality and with safety guaranteed equipment," Li said.
Uganda's President Museveni who spoke on behalf of the East African leaders present lauded China for supporting the project, with no conditions imposed like other development partners.
"We are happy to see that China is concentrating on the real issues of development, they don't give lectures on how to run local governments, they concentrate on projects of mutual gains," Museveni said.
The signing ceremony was the climax of the Chinese Premier's three-day State Visit to Kenya.