Kenya’s Madaraka Express excites Museveni

Uganda’s  President Yoweri Museveni became the first visiting head of state to travel by train on Kenya’s Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), a gesture that is likely to re-assure traders who seek to transport their merchandise from the port city of Mombasa into East Africa’s hinterland.

Museveni arrived in Mombasa on Wednesday on a three-day working visit to Kenya as he seeks to strengthen trade relations with the region’s biggest economy.

“It was a comfortable four-hour ride. The SGR is key in cutting down transport costs, reducing pilferage and ensuring goods arrive faster to the hinterland. It will greatly reduce business costs,” Museveni said

The train trip from Mombasa  to Nairobi, a distance of about 480kms using the SGR popularly known as the Madaraka Express is seen as a major endorsement in the push for Kenya and Uganda to build a seamless SGR through Kenya’s western border town of Malaba to Uganda’s capital, Kampala.

Construction of Uganda’s segment of the SGR from Malaba stalled basically because government is yet to mobilise $2.3 billion (Shs 18 trillion) to finance the project that is planned to link Uganda to her neighbours – Rwanda, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Museveni inside the Madaraka Express for the ride from Mombasa to Nairobi

“When the SGR is finished, it will take 24 hours from here (Mombasa) to Kampala. That means Uhuru and his government have reinforced their support for the hinterland economies and the economy of Kenya. This is enlightenment and it is what should be done all the time. Our economies will not grow if we don’t solve the issues of movement,” Museveni said.

Kenya is already extending the line from Nairobi to a designated inland dry port in Naivasha with $1.5 billion credit line from China.

The first phase of the SGR project from Mombasa to Nairobi cost $3.2bn and repayment of this cash is the top priority for the Kenya government, and it also wants to focus on the construction of the most financially viable route into Uganda.

Museveni expressed optimism that once construction of the SGR is complete, transportation of good between Mombasa and Kampala will take 24 hours.