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Sh368bn SGR loan not part of Uhuru-Jinping talks: State House

Saturday April 27 2019

Uhuru with Jinping

President Uhuru Kenyatta is received by Chinese President Xi Jinping on arrival for the Leaders' Roundtable Session at Hanque Square of Yangi Lake International Conference Centre in Beijing, China, April 27, 2019. PHOTO | SAMUEL MRING'U | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

IBRAHIM ORUKO
By IBRAHIM ORUKO
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Funding for the extension of the standard gauge railway from Naivasha to Kisumu was not on the agenda of discussions between Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta and China's Xi Jinping, State House has said.

Chief of Staff Nzioka Waita issued a statement on Saturday, following reports that China declined to give Kenya a Sh368 billion loan.

Mr Waita termed reports by local dailies, that the President “failed to secure loans or funds", as "disappointing".

"It is important to note that the question of funding for the extension of the standard gauge railway from Naivasha to Kisumu was not on the agenda of the meeting between the two Presidents. It therefore follows that the President cannot be said to be returning home empty-handed for something he did not request," he said.

"It further goes without saying that these headlines are not only factually incorrect [but also] misleading and extremely damaging to the reputation of the people and the Government of the Republic of Kenya."

COMPLEXITIES

Mr Waita further noted that the SGR project is regional, so "complexities in negotiating its completion involve several countries and securing financing for its completion could take several years of intricate negotiations".

In line with public interest, he gave an update on Phase 2A of the railway from Nairobi to Naivasha, saying it will have been completed by August.

State House noted that "the SGR remains an essential project of Kenya's Vision 2030 strategy and a key enabler of regional economic growth within East and Central Africa".

Mr Waita said, “As a Pan-Africanist, President Kenyatta remains committed to laying the necessary foundation for the trans-African rail and road infrastructure that will transform intra-African connectivity and trade for the economic benefit of over a billion Africans."

INVESTORS

The Chief of Staff said President Kenyatta informed his counterpart of plans to break ground by June, for the Industrial Park and the Dry Port to be constructed at the Naivasha Special Economic Zone.

He added that Chinese companies were invited to visit Kenya’s Special Economic Zones and make investments.

The park and the port will serve Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and South Sudan.

A such, Mr Waita said, it will be important to ensure the continuous flow of cargo from Naivasha as talks on funding for the extension of the SGR continue.

"To mitigate any risk of disruption to the movement of cargo, Kenya shared its short term plans to rehabilitate the meter gauge railway to the port of Kisumu to ensure seamless interconnection with the SGR at the Naivasha facilities," he said.

'EXTREMELY SUCCESSFUL'

President Kenyatta went to China with officials including Orange Democratic Movement leader Raila Odinga, who is the African Union High Representative for Infrastructure Development in Africa.

In the meetings he attended, he urged countries to strengthen connectivity, open up markets, commit to rule-based international trade, strengthen multilateral cooperation and ensure sustainable, people-centred development.

Mr Waita described the meeting between Presidents Kenyatta and Jinping as "extremely successful" and summed up their results as follows:

i) The signing of a trade agreement for the export of frozen avocados from Kenya to China, which followed the signing of an MoU on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Standards late last year for the export to China from Kenya of various horticultural products.

ii) The signing of a Framework Agreement between the Kenya National Highways Authority and the China Road and Bridge Cooperation for the construction of Kenya’s first expressway from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to Westlands.

iii) The signing of a financing agreement valued at Sh17 billion between the Kenya and China EXIM Bank for the construction of the Konza Technopolis Data Center and IT infrastructure.