Kenya’s parliament is pushing for all dangerous cargoes from Mombasa to Nairobi and beyond to be transported through its $3.2 billion China-funded and constructed standard gauge railway (SGR).
According to David Pkosing, who chairs the committee inquiring into State directive on the use of SGR for all cargo destined to Nairobi and beyond, “We are recommending that bulk, dangerous cargo such as fertiliser and petroleum products, dirty cargo and those weighing over 32 tonnes must be moved through the SGR.” The Transport Committee also said “We are pursuing a possibility that if you use SGR to transport your cargo from Mombasa to Nairobi and beyond, you will be required to pay 1.5 percent as Railway Development Levy and not the current two percent of the value of goods.” The levy is to promote SGR construction and to attract business willingly rather than through government directives.
Even as Covid-19 keeps spreading, Kenya’s standard gauge railway (SGR) maintained a steady movement of cargo from the port of Mombasa to the capital Nairobi, with about 1.98 million tons of cargo between January and June. Between April and June, about 1.05 million tons were ferried on the SGR. The generated revenue between the period was about 5.53 billion shillings (about 51.7 million U.S. dollars).
Reuters earlier reported how Kenya was forcing importers to use its new Chinese railway. The report revealed that “some importers said their transport costs shot up by nearly 50% when they used the rail due to extra fees, more time spent clearing goods at the congested Nairobi train depot, and the need to send a truck to collect the goods from there. These importers used to truck their goods in from the coast. But port authorities now say businesses based in Nairobi and upcountry must use the new line because the Mombasa port is contracted to supply it with a minimum amount of cargo.”
Kenya’s 472-kilometer $3.3 billion SGR situation presents us with practical insight into Chinese funded projects in Africa and allows further questions, like what are the socio-economic benefits of these multi-billion Chinese loan-backed infrastructures? Is there any detectable effect on Africa’s economic growth? What tangible impacts does it bring on the ordinary African citizen? Will the urge to pay back infrastructural loans to Beijing constrain African governments to force heavy taxes down the throats of African citizens?