Kenya has secured a significant boost for its regional infrastructure ambitions with China’s Exim Bank committing to fund the construction of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) extension from Naivasha to the Ugandan border.

This development comes after a period of uncertainty surrounding the project's financing.

The announcement was made by Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Roads and Transport, Kipchumba Murkomen, on the sidelines of a meeting between President William Ruto and his Ugandan counterpart, Yoweri Museveni, last week.

This critical section of the SGR is expected to play a pivotal role in enhancing regional connectivity and economic competitiveness.

It will provide a vital transport link to Uganda, South Sudan, Rwanda, and ultimately, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The pressure to complete the project is mounting as neighboring Tanzania forges ahead with its own electrified railway project headed towards the DRC along the Central Corridor.

Kenya and Uganda are actively seeking additional funding partners to complement China’s Exim Bank contribution.

The pan-African lender, the African Development Bank, and Kenya’s dedicated Railway Development Fund are expected to contribute alongside the Chinese investment.

This multi-pronged approach reflects the project's significant cost and underscores the desire to spread the financial burden.

The announcement regarding China’s renewed commitment coincides with a recent development that further bolsters the project's prospects.

Last week, Rwanda, Burundi, DRC, and South Sudan joined the SGR Cluster Joint Ministerial Committee, pledging to collaborate in securing funding for the railway's expansion.

Meanwhile, Uganda is gearing up for its segment of the project with construction on the Malaba-Kampala section expected to commence in September 2024.

President Museveni expressed his satisfaction with the progress, highlighting the historical significance of the project for regional integration.

"My only resolution is to put it in a historical perspective as to why it's happening now and not long ago. Uganda is part of Kenya, Tanzania and DRC," President Museveni remarked.

In a separate but related development, Murkomen emphasized Kenya's unwavering commitment to the SGR's extension beyond Uganda.

During a meeting with a delegation from China led by the National Railway Administrator, Mr. Fei Dongbin, Murkomen discussed broader railway development initiatives across East Africa and the continent.

"We discussed various areas of cooperation on railway development in the East Africa region and Africa at large," Murkomen said.

The discussions encompassed establishing Kenya as a regional railway hub through the creation of rolling stock maintenance centres and assembly plants.

Additionally, upgrading training institutions and personnel development were identified as crucial aspects for long-term sustainability.

"The establishment of Kenya as a regional hub for railway transport by building rolling stocks maintenance centres and assembly plants, upgrading of training institutions and training of personnel was also discussed," the CS added.

With renewed financial backing and regional cooperation, the completion of the SGR extension to Uganda and beyond appears to be back on track.

This ambitious project has the potential to transform regional trade dynamics and unlock significant economic opportunities for East Africa.