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ANOTHER LUNATIC EXPRESS?

Photos: Kenya is struggling to make commercial sense of its flagship Chinese-built railway

REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya
Approaching the station.
  • Abdi Latif Dahir
By Abdi Latif Dahir

Reporter

When Kenya’s Standard Gauge Railway leaves the terminus in the coastal city of Mombasa, it pulsates north, passing through towns and over picturesque national parks to reach its final destination in the capital city of Nairobi.

The 472-kilometer (293 miles) rail line was completed in 2017 to the tune of $3.2 billion and is considered Kenya’s largest infrastructure project since independence in 1963. The SGR was constructed to replace the “Lunatic Express,” the Kenya-Uganda meter-gauge railway line that was completed by British colonial forces at the beginning of the 20th century.

More than 100 years after the building of the earlier colonial railway, the modern line is emblematic of the new rising power in the region: China. In the past two decades, Beijing has become the go-to financier for African countries looking to fill the gap of much-needed infrastructural projects aimed at boosting trade, investment, and economic growth.

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