Chinese government has approved the loan for the construction of Naivasha-Kisumu Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) line, transport CS James Macharia has confirmed.
Speaking to Daily Nation at the Forum for China Africa Cooperation (Focac) in Beijing, Macharia said that Phase 2A (Nairobi to Naivasha) is 98 percent complete and will be operationalised in September.
“Since by September we will start receiving goods at Naivasha from Mombasa and Naivasha-Kisumu is not yet ready — even if we start today it will take three to four years — we had to rehabilitate the old railway to Malaba so that while it will take nine hours for goods to arrive in Naivasha, it should take the same time for the goods to reach Uganda, which is our biggest client. Without modernising it, it might take two days,” said the CS.
He further said that the Chinese Ministry of Commerce had approved the required funds, which are now with Exim Bank.
“In fact the funds had been approved by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce and are now with Exim Bank, which is looking into financial dynamics of lending according to the structure of each country,” Mr Macharia said.
“SGR was conceptualised by heads of four countries; that is Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan and they signed a document called SGR Protocol, which contains commitments that require every country to complete its bit. However, Kenya is going on with completing its part and at no point did China give ultimatums that this country needs to do this and that to get funding.”
This comes at the backdrop of reports that Kenya had been denied the loan when President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga visited China two months ago.
However, Foreign Affairs CS Monica Juma rubbished the reports, saying that Naivasha-Kisumu line was not a priority.
“In fact the SGR extension beyond Naivasha was never a priority agenda for the current mission to Beijing,” she tweeted.
In a bid to save the face of the government, Macharia said that they would rehabilitate the Naivasha to Malaba metre gauge railway segment, even as it pursues funding for the remaining Naivasha-Kisumu-Malaba section of the SGR line.
“We have agreed to work on upgrading the metre gauge railway as a priority so that once construction of the Nairobi-Naivasha section is complete in August, we can evacuate goods to Malaba on time,” Mr Macharia said.
Other countries that signed the deal to have SGR lines in the region have been reluctant to do so, hence making the Kenyan line almost non-viable business-wise.