From a great past to a greater future

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Kenya's Standard Gauge Railway

By Martin Dias

Travelling from Mombasa to Nairobi is soon going to be something to look up to.  The journey that took us close to twenty four hours will be reduced to four hours, what  a relief and a cause for excitement. I can visualise Kenyans queing to take their first ride on this train the moment the doors open. After waiting for close to a centuary, the Standard Gauge Railway’s  first phase  is expected to be completed by June 2017.

What makes this railway line more enchanting is the tremendous opportunities that will open up to the business community. We expect to see a sharp drop to cost of transportation and similarly an incease in travel numbers.

Standard Gauge Railway is so far one of the country’s long-term economic agenda and the biggest infrastructure project to ever be initiated in the country since independence. This mega projectis estimated to consume Ksh327 billion by the end of its completion in June 2017 and in return create immense opportunities to this country and beyond.

This project is not an ordinary infrastructural project but a vital means which is meant to simplify transport operations across the borders besides benefiting the economy of Kenya and the neighbouring countries.

Fundamentally, this project is a significant turn around to the entire transportation sector and a key enabler of this region’s growth through the advancement of our ability to efficiently move goods and services across East Africa Community,as well as eliminating most of the logistical challenges that hinders the expansion of the regional trade and investment.

The SGR will no doubt unleash the potential of our country and this calls for positivity and readiness to invest among the business community. What we need to realise is the possible opportunities that will come with the completion of the SGR and strive for an enabling environment that will attract potential investors from all over the world.

Most of the developed countries can testify of the impact of infrastructure as a key vehicle that drives development apart from being a significant economic enhancer, and I am optimistic that the SGR will likely lead to a remarkable contribution to this sector and be handy in overcoming the effects of many delayed businesses by the local business community.

In China for instance, development of infrastructure forms the key focus for the government as a significant economic development initiative. This development has given China mileage as a country leading to great progress that has continued to present great opportunities to the country’s citizens.

Even with this kind of development and economic progress, the country is set to add in major inflow of infrastructure projects.

All in all Kenya is not far from attaining this significant mileage, the country is on a positive growth path, according to a report by Think Tank published on secondJune  2016 on the Daily Nation,‘Kenya is one of the prosperous countries in East Africa.

This report further notes that the country has maintained a lead in personal freedom, entrepreneurship and opportunity. What more drives a country than freedom to transact business and readily available opportunities? The ground is already laid out for immense growth that is ahead of us.

Will the standard gauge railway become a nerve system to the economy?

Infrastructure investment go a long way to solving several pressing challenges, and I will admit that the SGR has come at a time when we needed it the most and I believe it will be of great importance in sprucing economic growth in our country.

The impact of transport goes well beyond its share of economy as it serves as an intermediary service to all sectors and is therefore critical to economic growth and poverty alleviation. And we are anticipating that this project will spearhead overall productivity growth and stabilize sectors that have been lagging behind as a result of poor infrastructure. I am positive that the same will translate to raising the living standards of Kenyans.

Kenya's Standard Gauge Railway under construction
Kenya’s Standard Gauge Railway under construction

One expectation of many Kenyans and especially those in the business is to access adequate, effective and efficient services at the least cost. And it’s no doubt this has already been sorted with the government’s plan of purchasing 56 trains with a capacity of 1,096  people and moving at a speed of 80 kilometres per hour.

Kenya has come from far in terms of infrastructural development and it is encouraging and especially to my fellow entrepreneurs to see the country making tremendous steps towards becoming an infrastructure powerhouse.

Our transport sector is showing up good signs of growth and if taken further fast, the contributions from this sector will be eons ahead of park.

Statistics from Kenya National Bureau of statistics indicates that the contribution GDP from the sector has been increasing incredibly, In the third quarter of last year, transport sector contributed 71,686 Kes million to the Gross Domestic Product, this figure had a notable increase from 65,399 Kes in the second quarter of the same year.

The geostrategic significance of the standard gauge railwaywill likely push this figures further, as other vital sectors in the country such as manufacturing, trade, tourism, agriculture ,industrialisation among other key sectors will benefit big-time.

Opportunies created by the Standard Gauge Railway

Transport is one of the main pillars of the economic recovery effort. This sector has immense contribution in various areas.In this regard the Standard Gauge Railway will be paramount in ;

One is national  cohesion, people from various parts of the country will be able to come into conduct more easily.Kenyans from different parts of the country are expected to utilise this project and I am positive this will be one uniting factor that will eliminate tribalism and instead embrace diversity in our esteemed country.

Secondly,the high magnitude of the impact has so far yielded notable increase in the sourcing of local material including cement, steel and cables with local sub-contracted companies taking the centre stage in drainage and security services in the on-going construction of the SGR,and we are anticipating all the factories build as a result of the SGR will with time develop to mega factories that will manufacture enough goods for us and the neighbouring countries.

Thirdly,we are expecting the areas along the railway to grow fast to bigger counties and cosmopolitan cities.

Further,it is undeniable that the economic viability of the project is being projected early as we have a good number of Kenyans working on the site,however we are anticipating for more job opportunities.

On his side the president assured Kenyans of more jobs creation, this the president said will be accomplished through creation of industrial zones along the entire railway corridor.

Fourthly,the SGR will create room for free flow of goods,for some time now, the port of Mombasa has been experiencing congestion leading to delay of goods and services, however I want to believe the completion of the SGR will bring in a new dawn.

Moreover, more individuals and companies  will as well benefit big time in as far as the management and operation of the locomotives is concerned.

As we are speaking, we have road construction engineers in the making,some of our students are already training in China, this is encouraging and at the same time paramount. The skills and tech-know how acquired by these great minds will be of great assistance in management, maintenance and operation of the Standard Gauge railway and other projects in the future.

This is a dynamic world and as time elapses, people’s needs and requirements change too. This dynamism makes us believe the paradigm shift of the SGR is a new transformation that will give Kenya a mileage.

It is crystal clear that this flagship project has come at a critical time when the country needs it the most, and we are eargerly waiting to see more opportunities  openening after the completion of all the phases.

After reading this article you will agree with me that this project is fundamental to the local and the international communityand has come at a critical moment when the country is working hard  and looking forward to increase the percentage growth  rate of the country.

The writer is the Group CEO-FAPCL Group. Email: md@fapcl.com