Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has said discussions on the financing for the Standard Gauge Railway from Naivasha towards the Ugandan border were not part of the agenda when he met with President Xi Jinping, Chimp Corps report.
Kenyatta was in this China this past week for the Belt and Road Initiative which is a multilateral event that brings together over 60 Heads of State and Government and other leaders from across the world to discuss issues of inter-continental connectivity for global trade.
The media would later report that Kenyatta failed to secure funding for the continuation of the SGR line beyond Naivasha, a claim he described as “very disappointing”.
In a statement issued late Sunday night, Kenyatta’s chief of staff, N.S Waita said “the question of funding for the extension of the Standard Gauge Railway from Naivasha to Kisumu was not on the agenda of the meeting between the two Presidents. It therefore follows that the President cannot be said to be returning home empty handed for something he did not request.”
He added: “Whilst making it clear that the Government of Kenya did not discuss any funding proposals for the extension of the SGR at this meeting, it is very critical to state at this point that the SGR project is a regional project and the complexities in negotiating its completion involve several countries and securing financing for its completion could take several years of intricate negotiations.”
Waita said the SGR Phase 2A of the Railway from Nairobi to Naivasha will be complete by August 2019.
It remains unclear why China is reluctant to provide funds for the extension of the SGR line.
There is speculation that China is worried about Uganda’s ability to sustain the debt.
Uganda has already spent billions of shillings in compensation of people along the planned route for the SGR.
Failure to secure funding could compel Uganda to rehabilitate the old inland railway lines and also invest heavily in water transport to move cargo from Kisumu where Kenya is planning to build an inland port to Port Bell.
A rail service from Port Bell would then deliver the cargo to Nalukulongo, a Kampala suburb.
Waita said in a statement that once the Industrial Park and Dry Port serving regional neighbours Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and South Sudan come into operation, “it will be necessary to ensure that there will be no disruption in the movement of cargo from Naivasha to the region whilst financial aspect for the extension of the SGR is concluded.”
He further stated that to “mitigate any risk of disruption to the movement of cargo, the Government of Kenya shared its short term plans to rehabilitate the existing meter gauge railway to the Port of Kisumu to ensure seamless interconnection with the SGR at the Naivasha facilities.”
While visiting Kenya recently, Museveni the Standard Gauge Railway would be soon get to Naivasha and that the Kenyan government had allowed Uganda to build a dry port there.
“They have also built a petroleum port in Kisumu, with a pipeline for general petroleum products and they are now working on one for aviation fuel. Lake Victoria, which was dormant will now come to life and we transport these fuels across the waters to Uganda,” said Museveni.
On his part, Waita said the SGR remains an essential project of Kenya’s Vision 2030 strategy and a key enabler of regional economic growth within East and Central Africa.
“As a Pan-Africanist, President Kenyatta remains committed to laying the necessary foundation for the trans-African rail and road infrastructure that will transform intra-African Connectivity and Trade for the economic benefit of over a billion Africans,” he added.
Meanwhile, Kenyatta, who participated at both the Summit and the High Level Heads of State Meetings, urged the participating countries to strengthen connectivity, open up markets, commit to rule based international trade, strengthen multilateral cooperation and ensure that development pursued is people centered, is sustainable and ensures shared prosperity.
President Kenyatta witnessed the signing of a trade agreement for the export of frozen avocados from Kenya to China which followed the signing of an MoU on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Standards late last year for the export to China from Kenya of various horticultural products.
The trade agreement on avocado, which is seen as a huge boost to Kenyan farmers, and partly addresses the trade imbalance with China.
Kenyatta also witnessed the signing of a Framework Agreement between the Kenya National Highways Authority and the China Road and Bridge Cooperation for the construction of Kenya’s first expressway from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to Westlands.
The project aimed at decongesting Nairobi City is privately funded through the Public Private Partnerships legal framework.
The third item was the signing of a financing agreement valued at KShs.17 Billion between the Government of Kenya and China EXIM Bank for the construction of the Konza Technopolis Data Center and IT infrastructure.
Construction of basic infrastructure at the Konza Technopolis is in the final stages of completion and this IT project will enable the special zone to be operational by 2020.
Waita said the project conceived over 10 years ago will be a significant source of jobs in the technology sphere.