Kenya a significant beneficiary of BRI
Victor Oluoch

Editor's note: Victor Oluoch is a journalist with Kenya's Nation Media Group and is currently participating in the China Africa Press Center 2019 program in Beijing. The article reflects the author's opinion, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.






The second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation will be held in Beijing at the end of April. As the clock for the forum continues to tick daily, when you go through various streets of Beijing, you will spot several banners with very beautiful messages that the city is ready for around 100 head of states and 26 international organizations. As a mega event under the world's watch, Kenya bets to extend its railway.

Since the inception of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2013 by China, connectivity has been enhanced, Chinese investment has reached new heights, trade patterns have had visible alterations and much more is expected. The global economy is entering a new template where a "win-win," guided by the principles of mutual respect and extensive consultations, prevails.

Mazeras Bridge of the Mombasa-Nairobi railway in Kenya. /Xinhua Photo

Mazeras Bridge of the Mombasa-Nairobi railway in Kenya. /Xinhua Photo

It also has seen the construction of the 478-km railway line from the coastal city of Mombasa to the country's capital city Nairobi and is not only a big moment for the country but a game changer because it has boosted commercial connectivity and trade in East Africa.

The railway remains the biggest infrastructural project in the East Africa region since the colonial era. The Beijing-built and -funded Nairobi-Mombasa railway has so far ferried more than 2.5 million passengers and nearly 3.9 million tons of cargo since its launch in May 2017, according to Kenya's government.

In an address to the nation earlier this month, President Uhuru Kenyatta praised the grand project, saying it has been listed among the top 13 most magnificent railway tours for 2019, adding that it has improved the country's economy significantly.

Kenya is among the 37 African countries which had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Beijing up to September 2018. That the country confirmed that it will participate in the forum later this month despite warnings from the Western countries is a clear indication that BRI is gaining momentum in Africa and Kenya is committed to seeing that it is fully rolled out.

Since the completion of the railway, the relationship between China and Kenya has improved greatly to the extent that the country has seen a higher number of Chinese tourists than before. As a result, Kenya Airways plans to have a direct flight from Nairobi to Guangzhou.

China's setting up some of its media outlets in Nairobi is a clear message to the world that Kenya remains Beijing's darling and Kenya reciprocates by playing its part in BRI's progress in the region and beyond.

A coffee farmer shows his coffee beans to an agronomist during a coffee harvest at the Ciumenene Estate, Gatundu South, in Kiambu County, Kenya, December 14, 2017. /VCG Photo.

A coffee farmer shows his coffee beans to an agronomist during a coffee harvest at the Ciumenene Estate, Gatundu South, in Kiambu County, Kenya, December 14, 2017. /VCG Photo.

The country recently announced that it will use the second BRI forum to see that the railway reaches Kenya's border with Uganda. That will be a big plus for the success of the BRI because it will be easy for Uganda to enhance connectivity with landlocked countries in East Africa like Rwanda, Botswana, Burundi, South Sudan, and Sudan via the line coming from Chad.

In March, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni toured Kenya and used the Madaraka Express train from Mombasa to the country's capital city. The two leaders said that they are committed to ensuring that the railway reaches the Ugandan capital Kampala. Such a gesture will see that the world is connected through infrastructure.

“We are coming in for the second BRI forum for the second loan complete the SGR from Naivasha to Malaba because it will not be economical if we do it halfway. We will also tell the world how it has continued to open up the country for more investors. Our current relationship with China has seen Kenya become a stronger trading partner of China,” said Sarah Serem, Kenyan ambassador to China.

“China-Kenya cooperation is becoming more and more successful. And there is deep mutual trust between our two sides, our friendship is time-tested and the fruits of our cooperation have seen the completion of Mombasa-Nairobi railway.” 

Such a bold step by Kenya will provide an outstanding opportunity for other countries from Africa to join the BRI train to help build a community with a shared future for mankind.

As I conclude, Kenya's acceptance of the extension of the railway to its border with Uganda is a milestone in ensuring that BRI succeeds and should not be taken for granted because BRI remains key to many African countries infrastructure needs.

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