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China and Kenya signed a co-financing deal on Sunday to build a railway linking Nairobi to Mombasa.
The modern high-speed, high capacity standard gauge railway for passengers and freight is slated to be a massive boost to regional trade.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, together with presidents of Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan as well as representatives from Tanzania, Burundi and the African Development Bank, witnessed the signing of the agreement.
Li said the presence of the African leaders and their representatives demonstrated African countries’ common desire to develop the railway network in East Africa.
“This project demonstrates that there is equal cooperation and mutual benefit between China and the East African countries, and the railway is a very important part of transport infrastructure development,” Li said.
“A country has to improve transportation infrastructure before its economy takes off,” he added.
The Mombasa-Nairobi railway is an important part of building the continent’s infrastructure networks of high-speed railway, expressway and regional aviation.
The track, from Mombasa to Nairobi stretching across 609km, will later be expanded through Uganda to Kigali in Rwanda and Juba in South Sudan.
Work on the project will begin in October this year and will take three and a half years to complete.
“The relationship between ourselves and China is based on mutual trust, because we are pursuing inclusive development and promoting inventive practical cooperation,” said Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta after the signing in Nairobi.
Hitting out at former colonial powers, Kenyatta said, they committed to “inequality of treatment, division and distrust”, while the relationship between Africa and China is founded on “mutual trust”.
Li said the Chinese firms participating in the railway project will employ the local populace after training them.
“Chinese companies have to abide by local rules and respect local customs during their operations here, and they have to fulfill their due social responsibilities,” said the Chinese Premier.
The total cost of the project is estimated at $3.8 billion, with China financing 90 per cent of the cost and Kenya pitching in with the remaining 10 per cent.
The Chinese Premier also stressed on bridging the trade imbalance with Kenya.
“We will take steps to correct trade imbalances because if they persist, achieving sustainable growth would be very difficult,” Li said.
Kenya is the last stop of Li’s four-nation Africa tour, which has already taken him to Ethiopia, Nigeria and Angola.
TBP and Agencies