Opposition leader Raila Odinga has said that he will accompany President Uhuru Kenyatta to China next week to seek funds for the extension of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) from Naivasha to Kisumu.
The Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader said on Saturday the Beijing visit will pave way for Sh350bn Kisumu SGR loan and revive the Kisumu inland port whose fortunes have dwindled due to the collapse of the old and dilapidated railway line.
The planned visit comes after a high-powered delegation, comprising officials from the Treasury, Kenya Railways Corporation, Ministry of Transport and State Law Office had an advance meeting last week to hammer out finer details of the scheduled borrowing ahead of the official signing.
“I will be part of the delegation to accompany the President to the Asian country next week. The new SGR line will extend from Naivasha, Narok, Bomet, Sondu and finally Kisumu,” Mr Odinga told a crowd during a stopover rally at Sondu market on Saturday.
Mr Odinga who was on his way to a funeral in Wanda village in Nyakach sub county noted that the completion of the SGR will make a big impact at the lakeside city and open up the port which has been underutilised for years, despite its immense potential to boost the county’s economy.
“We are going to establish a special economic zone in Kisumu and make the city the hub of East Africa,” said Mr Odinga.
According to the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) in its port performance figures for 2018, the port which was established in 1901 only handled 12,000 tonnes of fertiliser exported to Uganda, 240 tonnes of Magadi soda, 108 tonnes of heavy machinery headed to Tanzania and two tonnes of assorted cargo and bottle filing machine.
In terms of imports, the lakeside port handled only 1,100 tonnes of sugar from Uganda and 50 tonnes of heavy trucks from Dar, pointing to its underutilization as a key gateway and connectivity between the three countries.
Mr Odinga expressed optimism that the infrastructure will provide employment opportunities to thousands of Kenyans.
This comes after President Kenyatta and his Ugandan counterpart, Yoweri Museveni recently affirmed the two countries’ commitment to stick to the original plans of stretching the SGR all the way to Kampala.
The two countries have been differing over financing of the cross-border SGR, with China Exim Bank insisting that Kampala has to get Kenya’s commitment to build the section from Kisumu to Malaba before Uganda can secure funding for the line running from Kampala to the common border.
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