President William Ruto on Tuesday revealed that Africa is ready to expand its cross-border infrastructure networks to Chinese investors, while seeking to call on Beijing to consider extending the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) beyond from Kenya.
The president’s speech was the clearest indication yet that Nairobi was seeking funds to continue the Chinese-built SGR project, currently stalled in Naivasha.
At an investment forum in Beijing, President Ruto said he had held discussions with his peers in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Congo-Brazzaville on extending the project from coast to coast. the other.
“This is because we want to connect the eastern coast of Africa to the western coast of Africa using the SGR,” he told a Kenya-China forum organized by the Kenya Investment Authority , on the sidelines of the third Forum on the Belt and China. Road Initiative.
“We have had conversations with the presidents of Uganda (Yoweri Museveni), DRC (Félix Tshisekedi) and Congo-Brazzaville (Denis Sassou Nguesso) and all agree on the need to expand this important element infrastructure as a means of facilitating trade. across our continent and ensuring that businesses like you setting up in Kenya not only have access to the local market but also to East Africa and the rest of the continent.
The president’s speech focused on how his administration was making it easier for investors. But he also assured the Chinese of their political will to support the SGR.
Discussions between regional neighbors are not new.
In August, Kenya and Uganda signed an agreement to jointly solicit financiers to extend the SGR to Malaba and Kampala, with the ultimate aim of reaching the Democratic Republic of Congo. But the funding issue had derailed his goals. Kenya has accumulated some $4.5 billion (over Sh670 billion) in loans to build its Mombasa project in Naivasha.
And the Chinese were reluctant to finance it further after Uganda was afraid to sign a new loan to expand it within its borders. For years, Beijing has always viewed the SGR as a crucial part of boosting trade by accessing raw materials and markets in the African hinterland. But its viability also depended on how other countries could join.
When they signed the agreement in August, Kenya and Uganda did not mention the specific countries targeted for financing negotiations. But ease of access to money was always going to matter.
China has recently been supportive of public-private partnerships, which could allow Beijing to build the SGR and operators to recoup the money by charging transportation fees.
But Nairobi will still have to commit to ensuring that freight transport activity is guaranteed. This will require security and political buy-in, as President Ruto has promised.
“Our strong track record of friendly business environment, vast business opportunities, good infrastructure and a large pool of skilled manpower ensures investors get a high return on investment. Kenya is ready for business,” he said.
“Its strategic location, rich history of stability and overly revolutionary technology have made the country one of the leading investment locations in the world.”