Follow CGSP on Social Media

Listen to the CGSP Podcast

Kenya’s Dream to Build a Modern Railway Is Turning Into an Economic Nightmare

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta flags off the inaugural Nairobi-Suswa, Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) line constructed by the Chinese Communications Construction Company (CCCC) and financed by Chinese government, on October 16, 2019 in Nairobi. SIMON MAINA / AFP

Many Kenyans were excited about plans to build a modern railway across the country linking the port city of Mombasa and Malaba town on the Kenya-Uganda border. It was touted as a game-changer; the key to unlocking not just Kenya’s economic takeoff, but that of the entire East African region. It was supposed to reduce travel times by half, boost trade and economic activity in Kenya, create millions of jobs and improve the people’s standards of living. Ten years later, only half of the project is complete with no funds for the remaining phase of the project: Its economic viability is in doubt as China demands payment for the debt incurred by the project.

In fact, many Kenyans are blaming the SGR project for the current economic woes bedeviling the country. It almost feels that the entire SGR project was a bad dream that we need to wake up from.

  • Get a daily email packed with the latest China-Africa news and analysis.
  • Read exclusive insights on the key trends shaping China-Africa relations.
  • Full access to the News Feed that provides daily updates on Chinese engagement in Africa and throughout the Global South.

China, Africa and the Global South... find out what’s happening.

Subscribe today for unlimited access.

What is The China-Global South Project?


The China-Global South Project is passionately independent, non-partisan and does not advocate for any country, company or culture.


A carefully curated selection of the day’s most important China-Global South stories. Updated 24 hours a day by human editors. No bots, no algorithms.


Diverse, often unconventional insights from scholars, analysts, journalists and a variety of stakeholders in the China-Global South discourse.


A unique professional network of China-Africa scholars, analysts, journalists and other practioners from around the world.