One of China’s major infrastructure projects in Africa is construction of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) running from Kenya’s port city Mombasa to Nairobi and to the western border town, Malaba. Costing $US4 billion and providing 30,000 local jobs, the project would make Kenya, China’s central technical training hub for railway experts in East and Central Africa.
Irungu Nyakera, Kenya’s Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure, made the announcement last week. Before completing the project, the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) has granted another $US10 million for necessary upgrades to Kenya’s Railway Training Institute (RTI). The funds will be used to construct a tower, to-be-completed in a year, which will accommodate the hub. The institute will provide training for railway specialists from the countries, which cluster around the SGR including Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, South Sudan, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Kenya’s lecturers in this field will be training in China to fulfill their rail engineering degree programs. Ten RTI lecturers are already in China. Another 40 lecturers are expected to arrive in the next few months. While experts from China would offer education for a whole new generation of Africa’s railway engineers, Kenya and China have held talks over partnership exchanges between some of their respective universities. Kenyatta University in Nairobi is recruiting students to go to China to upgrade their engineering skills. Beijing Jiaotong University has recently launched a new program for Kenyan students, who had just graduated from high school. They can come to China for railway engineering studies.
The program was first discussed at the China-Africa summit last year to modernize Kenya’s rail network. It will provide education for 60 young students; 25 of them had arrived in China to begin their studies. The students are funded by CRBC and will attend Jiaotong University for the next four years. They can go home for visits once a year.
Participants were selected through the Railway Talents cultivation program – a Kenyan initiative for finding new talents for maintaining and operating the Standard Gauge Railway, which will be under construction by 2018, according to Kenya’s government contract with the CRBC.
While completing the mega railway project from Mombasa to Nairobi and Malaba, financed 90% by China’s Exim Bank, Beijing is assisting Nairobi with capacity development: preparing Kenyan experts and young people to operate the Standard Gauge Railway. This demonstrates outstanding foresight on China’s part concerning their ongoing assistance to Kenya and fruitful partnerships across the rest of Africa.