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Interview: China-funded infrastructure projects to boost Kenya's economy: official

2015-02-17 09:04:47       source:Xinhua News Agency

By Christine Lagat and David Musyoka


NAIROBI, Feb. 15 (Xinhua) -- Numerous infrastructural projects being financed by Chinese government as well as those undertaken by Chinese firms will help boost Kenya's economic development, officials said.


Kenyan officials told Xinhua the loans from China for flagship projects such as the Nairobi super highway, Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) construction and the Nairobi Greenfield International Airport as well as other projects have set the benchmark for Kenya's future economic takeoff.


When complete, the SGR is expected to significantly improve movement of goods from Mombasa to the hinterland including neighbouring countries that rely on the port of Mombasa for imports.


"China has vast experience building key infrastructure projects in Kenya and Africa as a whole. China has an intricate railway network that has powered industrial progress. We are partnering with China to rebuild railway networks," Kenya Railways Corporation (KRC) Corporate Affairs Manager Mary Oyuke told Xinhua.


Oyuke said China will remain a strategic partner with Kenya as the East African nation implements an ambitious infrastructure and industrial development agenda.


Oyuke added that Chinese technical prowess and financial support have powered modernization and expansion of Kenya's transport infrastructure.


Oyuke noted that technology transfer will be enhanced during construction of the Standard Gauge Railway. The blossoming China- Kenya cooperation will have spin off effects across socio-economic spheres.


She said Kenya borrowed crucial lessons from China to revitalize investments in strategic infrastructure like roads, commuter trains and seaports and expressed confidence in China's capacity to develop world class railway network connecting Kenya and the region.


Statistics by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) shows that infrastructure development has in the recent past played a critical role in sustaining growth of Kenya's economy.


During the fourth quarter of 2014, infrastructure spending by the government helped the construction industry grow 11 percent compared to 8.6 percent in 2013.


According to James Theuri, Project Coordinator at the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure, Kenya intends to develop world class infrastructure across the country to transform key sectors of the economy like agriculture, tourism and manufacturing.


"Currently, the World Bank, China and African Development Bank have financed mega infrastructure projects. Concessional loans from China have made it possible for the government to develop new roads," Theuri told Xinhua.


"China's Import and Export Bank will provide the bulk of funds required to develop the SGR. This support is timely and will enable us to realize the vision of inter connectivity through rail transport," he added.


This, Theuri said, proves that China and Chinese companies with the wealth of experience in railway development can accomplish the regional railway projects and thereby improve the current railway facilities.


The official said China has been a close development partner in many projects spanning railway, port, airports, road, energy and other sectors.


"Indications are clear that such partnership will continue in years to come, particularly in capital infrastructure projects that require huge investments. Kenya has invested a lot of faith and trust in such partnership," he said.


Kenyan scholars were optimistic that partnership with China will spread benefits to future generations.


"At this juncture, Kenya and China cannot afford to sever ties, given our shared vision of economic renaissance and stability. China is financing our infrastructure projects and has opened markets for our commodities," remarked Bethwell Kinuthia, an economist at the University of Nairobi.