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EAST AFRICA RAILWAY

Kenya must persuade Uganda to finish SGR

In Summary

• From June 1, all cargo destined for Kampala will have to be routed through the SGR Inland Container Depot in Naivasha

• The Ugandans argue that using the Naivasha ICD will make their freight slower and more expensive

President Uhuru Kenyatta flanked by Transport CS James Macharia (R) during the launch of freight service on the Standard Gauge Railway from Nairobi to Naivasha, December 17, 2019. /PSCU
President Uhuru Kenyatta flanked by Transport CS James Macharia (R) during the launch of freight service on the Standard Gauge Railway from Nairobi to Naivasha, December 17, 2019. /PSCU

Kenya has refused Uganda’s request to optionally collect cargo from Mombasa rather than from the Naivasha Inland Container Depot served by the standard gauge railway.

Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia ordered that all freight for Kampala must be channelled through Naivasha from June 2. He said the facilities there were as good as in Mombasa and Nairobi.

The Ugandan reluctance to use Naivasha is understandable. Trans-shipment will make it slower and more expensive than collecting by truck directly from Mombasa. And, to make matters worse, Uganda will have to build offices and accommodation there.

The SGR was originally supposed to go all the way to Kampala and even Kigali. It does not make economic sense without those economies of scale.

The only solution to this impasse is for Kenya to hold a high-level summit with Uganda, and, ideally, Rwanda, to secure a commitment to continue the SGR to Kampala and Kigali. That will be expensive for Uganda and Rwanda so Kenya will have to make concessions on freight charges on its section of the SGR. But unless the SGR is extended into East Africa, it will never fully take off.

Quote of the day: "What is more immoral than war?"

Marquis de Sade
The French writer was born on June 2, 1740