Kenya Railways Managing Director Mr. Atanas Maina made a strong case for the construction of the Standard Gauge Railway from Mombasa to Malaba along the Northern Corridor during the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) special knowledge sharing session held on 12th March, 2016 at the Serena Hotel in Nairobi.
The event, which was themed “Understanding the Standard Gauge Railway Ecosystem: Progress, Opportunities and Interventions was attended by key players in the country’s private sector including the chair KEPSA Transport and Infrastructure Board Dr. Auni Bhaiji, chair of the Private Sector Northern Corridor Integration Project (NCIP) Committee Eng. Patrick Obath, the SGR Consortium Coordinator Mr. Kevit Desai, the Chief Executive Officer KEPSA Ms. Carole Kariuki alongside other players in the Private Sector. Kenya Railways Management team was also in attendance.
Speaking at the session, Mr. Maina reiterated that the project is a phenomenal contributor towards the development of the country and region through job creation and positive impact on the business scene. He pointed out that the scale of opportunities that come with mega-projects like the Standard Gauge Railway is very wide in scope and called on the private sector to empower local suppliers to be able meet the demand of inputs. He further pointed out that the progress of construction is impressive stating that construction of civil works is 75 per cent complete with 200 kilometres of rail track having been laid. He acknowledged that the Corporation has surmounted enormous challenges ever since construction started and that the contractor is well placed to deliver the project within the set timelines.
“This project is of very significant importance especially to you the private sector. It will transform the transport sector and make it more efficient. It is responsive to the needs of the private sector through creation of an enabling environment for you to thrive. Recently we advertised for a transaction advisor to assist in the procurement of a competent operator for the Mombasa to Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway. This is an opportunity for Kenyans and especially the private sector to constructively engage with regards to the project,” he said.
Other areas that the Managing Director addressed included strategic interventions that will come about from the implementation of the project, re-positioning of key towns as investment hubs, training and technology transfer, with emphasis on developments under the Railway Training Institute (RTI) as well as the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) Scholarship programme. He further clarified concerns raised with regards to the 40 per cent local content noting that that though the contractual agreement with the contractor did not have this requirement, the government’s directive to ensure supply of locally produced goods and services in the project has enhanced goodwill and support of local industries.
On his part, the SGR Consortium Coordinator Dr. Kevit Desai lauded the commencement of the training component under the project citing the scholarship programme under which 25 students left the country to study railway engineering in China. This he said will leave a lasting mark on the nation. However, he expressed concern on the utilization of local supplies on the project, thereby urging the Corporation to address the matter urgently.
“Engagement on the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZ) along the projects corridor is a golden opportunity for the private sector, which we should tap into,” he added. Eng. Patrick Obath also lauded the Corporation on the strides achieved in delivering what he referred to as probably the most relevant project in the country since independence. He pointed out that the Northern Corridor Integration Project (NCIP) has taken up a strategic and active role in the development of infrastructure across the region. He called on the participants to look beyond the construction phase and focus on the real opportunities that come with the project and seek to add value. “Infrastructure is part of improving the logistics so that we can utilize it to deepen investment in economic clusters,” he concluded.
Also speaking at the forum, the SGR Technical Advisor Eng. Solomon Ouna challenged the banking sector which is part of the Private Sector to position itself appropriately and finance the mega projects taking place on the continent. The forum was an opportunity to engage and share extensively on the developments on the project and the opportunities set to come with it.
KEPSA will organize a tour of the SGR project, fast track the development of Special Economic Zones (SEZ) Regulations and work with the Ministries and County governments involved to zone off land along the SGR routes for economic/industrial development.