Reference:chinadaily| Updated: 2019-12-18 11:32
The first cargo train starting from Nairobi to Naivasha Inland Container Depot, or ICD, on Dec 17 will further reduce the logistics cost and greatly boost regional connectivity and integration and economic growth of Kenya's inland.
Uhuru Kenyatta, the president of Kenya, and Wang Yong, the special envoy of President Xi Jinping, commissioned freight operation of the Chinese-built Nairobi-Naivasha Section, the first phase of Nairobi-Malaba Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) and the extension of the Mombasa-Nairobi SGR.
The project, a fruit of the Belt and Road Initiative, is expected to ease cargo transportation from the Port of Mombasa to the newly completed Naivasha ICD, destined for the western region of the country and the neighboring Uganda, South Sudan, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo.
President Kenyatta said the completion of the depot and commencement of freight services will significantly support and provide anchorage, for the development of Naivasha Industrial Park, whose construction is set to begin soon.
"We hope other economic and commercial ventures will be established along the line, which together will trigger creation of productive employment; and in the process reduce poverty and inequality across the whole country," the president said.
He said the 45,000-square-meter Naivasha ICD will not only help relieve pressure on the Port of Mombasa and the Nairobi ICD, but will also take the cargo closer to Uganda and South Sudan by a further 120 kilometers from Nairobi.
"This strategic development is a clear demonstration that the SGR is a game changer in supporting development of industrial parks, logistics and commercial hubs, and special economic zones, which will attract further foreign investments and enable us to do greater business with our neighboring countries," he said
Kenyatta said the demand for SGR services along Nairobi-Naivasha Railway is a clear demonstration of the need for more capacity and modern and efficient transport infrastructure, to support investors in Kenya and across the entire East African Region.
The launch of the freight services comes barely two months after launch of the passenger services along the same route. To date, Uhuru said the passenger train has transported more than 10,000 passengers and that the demand is significantly outstripping the carrying capacity.
He said the operations of the SGR passenger and freight services locally referred to as Madaraka Express, have been an enabler to each of the pillars of the Big Four Agenda - food security, affordable housing, manufacturing, and affordable healthcare for all.
"The significant investments in the SGR project are worthwhile in the short, medium and long-term. SGR is a vital component for the realization of the Kenya Vision 2030, the Big Four Agenda and our quest to spread the fruits of our prosperity to every corner of our country," he said.
Since the launch of the Nairobi-Mombasa SGR in June 2017, it has served more than 3.7 million passengers with daily occupancy of 97 percent and handled over 6.8 million tons of cargo between Mombasa and Nairobi.
Kenyatta thanked China for its strong support and assistance to Kenya's economic and social development, and expressed its hope to deepen friendly and mutually beneficial cooperation between the two sides, jointly safeguard multilateralism, and achieve mutual benefit and win-win results.
He also thanked President Xi for sending a special envoy to the opening ceremony.
Wang Yong, the special envoy of President Xi at the launch event, said the Nairobi-Naivasha SGR is a witness of China's growing friendship with Kenya and wider African continent.
"The completion of Naivasha ICD and inauguration of cargo service show the great importance attached by the two presidents and their personal commitment. It also demonstrates the principles of the BRI namely extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits," he said.
Wang said the construction of the railway created over 40,000 local jobs and the operation will further create over 500 jobs.
"On behalf of President Xi, I extend my sincere gratitude to all the workers, departments and companies from our two countries and people living along the route who have made important contribution to the construction of the railway," Wang said.
Kenya is China's important cooperative partner while China is Kenya's important supporter and participant in its national development. "Our cooperation is a pace setter and a good example of China-Africa cooperation," Wang said.
A day before the launch event, Wang paid a courtesy call to President Kenyatta at the State House, where he pledged China's support to Kenya's infrastructure development goals.
He said China is open to working closely with Kenya to create a link between the joint construction of the BRI and the eight major actions of the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation with Kenya's Big Four Agenda and Vision 2030 to further consolidate political trust while building pragmatic cooperation, close cultural exchanges and strengthening international collaboration.
Kenyatta thanked China for its strong support for Kenya's development and further pointed out that presently, the international scene is undergoing complex changes.
"Kenya has further strengthened its comprehensive strategic partnership with China, deepened its cooperation in trade and investment, railway and other infrastructure construction and coordinated in international and regional affairs by jointly responding to risks and challenges as we strive to achieve win-win cooperation," Kenyatta said.
During his visit to Kenya, Wang inspected the China-Africa Joint Research Center and some Chinese-funded enterprises in Kenya.