Kenya Makes a Big, Risky Bet On a Railway Project


However tempting high-speed trains might be as a means to accelerate development, transport is not enough by itself to catalyse growth and jobs. What matters most is how transport, high-speed or slow, is integrated with other infrastructure and wider policy, as Kenya illustrates.

Hassan Ali Joho was first elected governor of Mombasa in 2013. By 2019, aged just 43, he was halfway through his second and final term.

His city, which comprises the smallest of Kenya's 47 counties by land mass, is the second wealthiest after Nairobi. It contains, he says proudly, the second-highest levels of skills among its 1.5-million inhabitants, also just behind the capital. It is also the point of access for 200-million Kenyans, Ugandans, Rwandese and Congolese in the hinterland. China and Africa. Of the 2,500 staff, 89% are now Kenyan, though key jobs including most station masters and drivers remain Chinese. (Photo: Mike Mills)

He might have added that it is also the beneficiary of the largest infrastructure project undertaken in Kenya since independence, the 485km Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) that shortens the journey time to Nairobi to just five hours. The Madaraka Express passenger service is clean, tidy, runs on time and there are apparently...

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