Chinese-funded railway inaugurated in Kenya

Chinese-funded railway inaugurated in Kenya

On Wednesday, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta will inaugurate a Chinese-funded railway that will connect the capital Nairobi to the Indian

Photo: Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty

Photo: Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty

On Wednesday, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta will inaugurate a Chinese-funded railway that will connect the capital Nairobi to the Indian Ocean port of Mombasa.

The major infrastructure project is a win for the president, who faces re-election in August. The new line cost $3.6 billion, was finished 18 months ahead of schedule and will cut the commute between Kenya’s two most populous cities to 6 hours. Freight trains will complete the journey in less than 8 hours and will be capable of transporting 40% of Mombasa’s yearly trade output by 2035.

The opening of the Nairobi-Mombasa line is just the first stage in a regional project that aims to connect Kenya to its East African neighbours.

With 90% of the construction cost funded by a Chinese state-owned bank, the railway is a successful example of a project linked to the One Belt, One Road program. But this raises concerns about Chinese influence in Kenyan politics—indeed, this act of ‘enlightened self-interest’ could bear strategic fruits for Beijing in the near future.