Kenya Opens $1.5b Chinese-Built Railway

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President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya

President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya is due to open a new $1.5 billion Chinese rail line on Wednesday linking the capital Nairobi to the Rift Valley town of Naivasha, despite delays in establishing an industrial park there to drive freight traffic.

The extension links to the $3.2 billion line between the port of Mombasa and Nairobi that opened in 2017, also suffering from underutilisation of its cargo services. Both sections were Chinese-funded and Chinese-built.

The development of Kenya’s railways has been part of China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative, a multi-billion dollar series of infrastructure projects upgrading land and maritime trade routes between China and Europe, Asia and Africa.

Kenya had planned to open an industrial park in Naivasha, offering companies tax breaks for investing in manufacturing, and preferential tariffs for electricity generated in the nearby geothermal fields. But that has been delayed.

Kenyatta was re-elected for a five-year term in 2017 after promising to develop the East African nation’s infrastructure. The railway was his pet project but it has been dogged by problems. In April, China refused to fund the planned $3.7 billion extension from Nairobi to the Ugandan border town of Malaba.

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