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David Ndii: The Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) Does Not Make Any Sense

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta has just jetted back into the country fresh from the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) that brought together all of the continent’s heads of state and government to China’s seat of power, Beijing. At the forum, Kenya’s Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), which was unveiled in 2017, was hailed as one of the successes of China’s long-standing relationship with Africa.

While that may be so, back home, Kenyans have been bracing themselves for an increased cost of living driven by among other things, the external debt the country has been accruing since 2013, part of which went towards financing the SGR.

The first phase of the SGR, which connects the port city of Mombasa to the capital, Nairobi, and covers 472 kilometres, cost a whopping Kshs 327 billion at a rate of Kshs 560 million per kilometre. It is set to be extended to the Rift Valley town of Naivasha for a further Kshs 150 billion in the first part of the second phase of the SGR. The second part of the second phase, set to take the China-financed railway line to the shores of Lake Victoria, will cost Kshs 380 billion.

With this in mind, was the SGR really necessary? What is its value addition to the country’s overall economic well-being? Africa Uncensored‘s John-Allan Namu sat down with a fierce critic of the SGR project, economist David Ndii, to get his views on the matter in this collaboration with The Elephant.

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