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Hoping to boost trade, Kenya launches $13.8 billion China-built railway

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
December 2nd, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Hoping to boost trade and their economy, the government of Kenya has begun construction of $13.8 billion railway to be built by Chinese firms. Seeking to increase  Kenya's position as a regional economic powerhouse, the railway will run from the busy port city of Mombasa inland to the highland capital Nairobi.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - It's hoped that the railway will eventually extend onwards to Uganda and then connect with proposed lines to Rwanda and South Sudan.

"What we are doing here today will most definitely transform the course of development not just for Kenya but the whole eastern African region," Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta told crowds at the ground breaking ceremony.

Hailing the construction project as a "historic milestone," Kenyatta added, "As a result east Africa will become a competitive investment destination... a busy growing east Africa is good for us as a country."

The railway will replace dilapidated British colonial-era lines. It's by far the region's largest infrastructure project for a century.

"Kenya is stepping forward... it will be a landmark project both for Kenya and east Africa," China's ambassador to Kenya Liu Guangyuan said at the ceremony.

Thanking Chinese President Xi Jinping, President Kenyatta praised the Chinese leader's "great personal interest in the project and his government's immense support."

China has funded the project only for the first 280-mile section, at $5.2 billion from Mombasa to Nairobi. Work on that section, by the state-owned China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC), is expected to be completed by 2017.

"Presently our region relies almost exclusively on road transport," Kenyatta said, adding he was looking forward to waving off "the first train to Kigali via Nairobi and Kampala, delivering the promise of prosperity for all our east African peoples."

The new lines would see passenger journey times cut from the current 12 hours to around four. That's around half the current driving time on crowded and pot-holed roads.

Freight trains are planned to be able to cut the current 36-hour trip by rail to just eight, which will be a major boost for regional landlocked nations.

Some Kenyan lawmakers have criticized the awarding of the contracts, saying that the process was not transparent. Regional nations not included in the line have likewise expressed their displeasure. Burundi's transport minister last week announced a raft of infrastructure plans with Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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