12 May 2014

East Africa: New Railway Project to Turn EAC Economic Fortunes

Photo: Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch
A railway track used to transport Vale’s shipments of coal from their mine in Moatize to the port in Beira.

President Paul Kagame yesterday joined his counterparts Uhuru Kenyatta (Kenya), Yoweri Museveni (Uganda) and Salva Kiir of South Sudan in Nairobi to witness the signing of the first phase of the Standard Gauge Railway agreement.

The ceremony was also attended by Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang.

The railway project is expected to change the region's economic landscape by providing efficient and cost effective rail transport for both freight and passengers.

It is intended to reduce the cost of doing business through cheaper transport among the countries served by the Northern Corridor. It will significantly reduce the time both passengers and cargo spend on travel and transit, respectively.

President Kenyatta said Kenya would continue making development strides in partnership with dependable friends:

"We've shown our ambition, rejected the idea of simply sticking with what we have. We have found partners of equal determination. It now falls on us to complete this project as fast as we can," Kenyatta said.

The Minister for Instratructure, Silas Lwakabamba, said: "This is an exciting time for East Africa to work with China to expand infrastructure and in the process create employment and reduce the cost of doing business in the region."

The project is expected to kick off on October 1, and will take 42 months to complete. Ninety per cent of the financing will come from China Exim Bank, while the remaining 10 per cent will come from the Government of Kenya.

Premier Li, who has been on a three-day State Visit to Kenya, said closer partnership between Africa and China people was more than cooperation on single projects, but "a communication linking the hearts and minds of people".

The agreements for the construction and financing of the project were signed by Kenya's Treasury Cabinet Secretary, Henry Rotich, and the President of China Exim Bank, Li Ruogu.

The ministers of infrastructure of the EAC countries also signed protocols for an Institutional Framework based on Northern Integration Corridor, whereby the countries will concurrently build railway portions in their respective countries that will connect to Kenya.

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