Kenya smallholder tea farmers earn Sh63.6 billion from tea exports
New standard gauge railway line to start operations within the next five years
By Kazungu Chai (PSCU)
President Uhuru Kenyatta has said the Standard Gauge railway line, he launched Thursday, will accelerate regional economic transformation by reducing transportation costs.
He said that is why Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda signed a Trilateral Agreement to expedite development of the high-speed railway connecting Mombasa to Kampala, and onwards to Kigali.
“We intend to make it operational by 2018. There is urgency, and we are committed to realize this dream,” President Kenyatta said.
President Kenyatta, who was accompanied by First Lady Margaret, urged everyone involved to keep their eyes on the finish line and the resultant benefits to Kenyans instead of politicizing the project.
The President spoke at Changamwe in Mombasa County during the ground breaking ceremony for the historic milestone project.
He termed as “misguided” rumours that the high-speed railway was meant to isolate Tanzania and undermine the East African Community. Instead, the President said plans are underway to develop a railway line that will link Tanzania via Taveta.
“We will launch the Voi-Taveta-Moshi road next month. We are also planning to rehabilitate the Mombasa-Lunga Lunga road to ease movement of people between our two countries,” President Kenyatta said.
The launch marked the commencement of the first phase of the project, comprising the Mombasa-Nairobi segment that covers 500 kilometres.
The Head of State disclosed that designs for the second phase –Nairobi to Malaba, with a branch line for Kisumu –are being developed.
He said South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir has also assured that his Government will join the railway development project, extending it to Juba. The President noted that upon completion of the standard gauge railway, transport costs in the region will reduce by more than 60 per cent.
The President said: “This in turn will spur expanded production and reduce the cost of goods and services. This dividend is the prize we seek for East Africa.”
“This is the reason why we must view the substantial investment in the railway as a worthy investment to underpin the regional economic agenda. An economy only ever thrives on the foundation of proper infrastructure,” he added.
Acknowledging the importance of the road network, the President said Kenya will continue to invest in the development of roads. He said the existing metre gauge railway system will also be retained and maintained as it will provide additional capacity in the Northern Corridor.
“Furthermore, this will offer the business community greater choice in transport, and create the competition required to keep the sector vibrant and cost-efficient,” the President said.
As East Africa embarks on an irreversible journey to full integration, the President said Kenya recognizes its position as a gateway to the region and is implementing modern seamless transport logistics to make East Africa a competitive investment destination.
He affirmed his Government’s determination to ease the transportation logistics and reduce transportation costs from the Port of Mombasa and, later, from the Port of Lamu, to all East African destinations.
“We want the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, the Republic of South Sudan, the Republic of Uganda, the Republic of Rwanda, the Republic of Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the United Republic of Tanzania to partake fully in the benefits arising from our natural vantage point,” he said.
He said Kenya’s active involvement in infrastructure initiatives is driven by the fact that a growing East African economy will increase the volume of business at the ports. The President observed that Mombasa port operations are being reorganized to improve the ‘turn-around’ time for ships and already that time has been reduced from 11 to 6 days.
The Head of State thanked President Xi Jinping of China for his personal interest and support in the railway project.
Deputy President William Ruto said the launch is an important step towards fulfilling the Jubilee Coalition’s pledge of a faster transport system that will grow the economy by double digits.
“This project will provide the single critical platform that will re-engineer our economy,” the Deputy President said.
He said the high speed railway will also reduce road accidents as it will decrease congestion on the country’s roads.
Mombasa County leaders, led by Governor Hassan Joho and Senator Omar Hassan, assured the President and Deputy President that they fully backed the project. They said those who were initially opposing it were doing so due to lack of information but now they have the facts and they will support it to its successful completion.