Kenya is actively pursuing financial support to expand its ambitious Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) project to Malaba following the withdrawal of the initial financier.
In an effort to bolster regional connectivity and enhance the flow of cargo, President William Ruto has initiated negotiations with a consortium involving Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and the Republic of Congo, aiming to make the northern corridor more competitive and efficient.
The collaborative bid, if successful, will pave the way for the SGR project to extend its rail network all the way to Kampala, Uganda, and Kasese, Uganda, passing through Mpondwe near the Democratic Republic of Congo.
President Ruto elaborated on the broader significance of this endeavour, "The reason why we are discussing with China is we want to connect the Eastern Coast of Africa to the Western Coast of Africa," during a keynote address at the Kenya-China Investment Forum held in Beijing.
The primary objective of this project is to enhance the movement of goods and render the northern corridor, spanning from the Port of Mombasa to the Uganda border with the DRC, Rwanda, and South Sudan, more efficient and cost-effective by utilizing rail transportation.
While speaking during a Kenya-China forum organised by the Kenya Investment Authority, on the sidelines of the Third Forum on the Belt and Road Initiative, Ruto revealed there were plans to have the SGR link the eastern and western coasts of Africa.
"It is because we want to connect the eastern coast of Africa to the western coast of Africa using the SGR," Ruto said.
He underscored the regional unanimous support for this critical infrastructure project, emphasizing its potential to facilitate continental trade.
"We have all agreed on the need for this set of infrastructure as a means of facilitating trade across our continent and ensuring that companies that have established themselves in Kenya have access to Uganda and other countries," Ruto said.
In a noteworthy development, Kenya has entered into negotiations and signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to explore trade opportunities with China.
"We have had conversations with the Presidents of Uganda, DRC, and Congo-Brazzaville and have all agreed on the need to extend this important piece of infrastructure as a means of facilitating trade across our continent and making sure that companies like yourselves who set up in Kenya not only have access to the local market but also to East Africa and the rest of the continent," the president said.
Kenyan business leaders are now eyeing the export of tea, coffee, and macadamia to the Chinese market.
Cheng CongCong, Chairman of Kenya-China Chamber of Commerce (KCCC), emphasized the significance of this trade collaboration.
"We have noticed the trade imbalance caused by several challenges, getting markets in Kenya is expensive and marketing is costly," CongCong stated.
Investment and Promotion Principal Secretary Abubakar Hassan reiterates Kenya's commitment to fostering economic growth.
"Kenya is open for business...Kenya is ready for business, and we mean business," Hassan said.
The developments surrounding the SGR expansion and the burgeoning trade partnership between Kenya and China have been a focal point of discussion at the 3rd Belt and Road Initiative Summit, currently taking place in Beijing.
The summit, expected to conclude on Wednesday, has brought together world leaders, including the host President Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin of Russia, and President Ruto, signalling a commitment to enhancing global connectivity and fostering economic cooperation.