The state-owned rail giant China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) has signed a major agreement to build a $1.5bn section of standard gauge railway linking Kenya to landlocked neighbours Uganda and Rwanda.
Approved by the Kenyan government, the deal sees CCCC building a 349-km railway between Naivasha, north of the capital Nairobi, northwest to Malaba on the border with Uganda.
The section is part of a bigger plan to link the border town of Malaba through Nairobi to Kenya’s main port of Mombasa. Another Chinese company, China Road and Bridge Corporation, began building the link between Mombasa and Nairobi in December 2014.
Following the Attorney General’s approval of the drafts, the two organisations signed four contracts for the development of the four elements of the SGR project– Atanas Maina, Kenya Railways managing director
The even grander scheme is eventually to build a standard gauge rail link from Malaba over the top of Lake Victoria to Kampala in Uganda and onwards to Kigali in Rwanda, giving these countries access to Mombasa port, although Uganda and Rwanda will be responsible for their sections of the railway.
The new network is hoped to speed the flow of people and goods between the countries. Malaba has been a bottleneck between Kenya and Uganda, with trucks having to queue for days to cross (pictured) before a new checkpoint opened this year.
Four contracts signed with CCCC cover two sections of the Naivasha-Malaba line, plus the modernisation of Kisumu Port on Lake Victoria and the expansion of the Inland Container Depot at Embakasi in Nairobi, local media reported.
The deal also secures a loan for the Kenyan Government to finance the building of the Naivasha-Nairobi section, and construction is expected start by the end of 2016.
Kenya Railways managing director Atanas Maina said in a statement that the total contract price for the Naivasha-Malaba section stood at $1.5bn (Sh153 billion).
"Following the Attorney General’s approval of the drafts, the two organisations signed four contracts for the development of the four elements of the SGR project. Kenya is therefore developing the Mombasa-Malaba section of the proposed network to Kigali through Uganda," Maina said in the statement.
Photograph: Trucks waiting to cross the Kenya-Uganda border at Malaba (IESE Business School)