Kenya: CS Juma Says Beijing Visit Was Anchored On Trade, Not Just Borrowing

President Uhuru Kenyatta (left) greets Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on April 25, 2019 ahead of the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation.

Nairobi — Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma has assured that the relationship between Kenya and China is still strong despite failing to secure Sh368 billion meant for the SGR extension from Naivasha to Kisumu, in the wake of a storm kicked off by reports from Beijing that Kenya did not get all it bargained for.

The CS said the ties between the two countries is broader than the Standard Gauge Railway project and that it was not a priority agenda during President Uhuru Kenyatta's visit to Beijing where he was attending the Belt and Road Initiative.

Following concerns raised by Kenyans on social media, the CS tweeted from Beijing on Saturday, saying the country's focus was to grow market access, development of industrial and specific economic zones and partnership with the private sector for investors to grow the Public-Private Partnership secured on Friday.

"The SGR extension beyond Naivasha was never a priority. Our focus was to grow market access and partnership with the private sectors for the investment," she said.

With the funding hitch, Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia says the government has shelved plans to extend the Standard Gauge Railway to Kisumu and will instead reactivate the Metre Gauge Railway line linking Naivasha to the lakeside city.

She defended the visit to Beijing, that secured some Sh67.5 billion under the Public Private Partnership for the development of the Konza Data Centre and the Smart cities project that will be undertaken by Chinese Telecommunications giant Huawei at a cost of Sh17.5 billion.

This is one of the government's vision 2030 project that started back in 2008 and is aimed at developing technology incentives and technology industries in ICT, Biotechnology and e-commerce.

Phase one of the projects is expected to create over 17,000 jobs and contribute close to Sh90 billion to the Kenyan economy.

The second deal also includes the construction of the Nairobi-Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) to James Gichuru expressway by the China and Road and Bridge Cooperation at a cost of Sh50 billion.

State House said the modern expressway is expected to ease traffic congestion along Mombasa road highway which is part of the ongoing interventions by the government to decongest major roads in Nairobi.

On Friday, Transport Cabinet James Macharia told the State Broadcaster KBC that Kenya had missed signing the Sh368 billion loan agreement which has now forced the government to put on hold the extension of the Standard Gauge Railway to Kisumu and plans to re-activate the Metre Gauge Railway line linking Naivasha to the Lakeside city.

"What we've prioritized is making sure that when goods get to Naivasha, they're not marooned. What is important is to make sure we have connectivity by ensuring that we have a transshipment point in Naivasha from SGR to MGR," Macharia said.

The CS added that the project will save on time and ensure continuous transportation of cargo from the port of Mombasa to Kampala.

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