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The Nested Tragedies of Kenya’s Standard Gauge Railway

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

Recently we’ve seen two new pieces of research on Kenya’s Standard Gauge Railway (SGR,) which make for fascinating – if depressing – reading. They show that the project was doomed from the start by corruption and bad dealing from both the Kenyan and Chinese sides.
It’s now clear that the projections of the usefulness and profitability of the railway had been distorted, and that a humbler refurbishment of existing, smaller rail lines would have been a more realistic way to achieve the SGR’s stated goals – East African regional integration and a more ecologically and financially sustainable alternative to road transport.

“China, because its lending policies have encouraged elaborate infrastructure projects which are often over-priced and unnecessary. Kenya, because its elites are corrupt and do not care about the country’s long-term development, has reached the point where “Corruption in the country has become a culture and it permeates all aspects of life.”


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