Kenya embarks on multibillion infrastructure projects

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Kenya embarks on multibillion infrastructure projectsKenya has embarked on major infrastructure projects to make up for decades of under-investment that stunted economic growth.

In a span of two weeks, the country has launched two major infrastructure projects.

Work has commenced on a US$653 million expansion of its main airport aimed at boosting trade and cementing its status as a regional commercial hub.

Upon completion, the new terminal at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport will be able to handle 20 million passengers, three times the existing passenger flow through the airport.

The first phase of the new terminal construction will be finished in 2016. There are plans to also construct a second runway at the airport.

According to Kenya’s cabinet secretary for transport, the government will fund 15 percent of the project while the balance will come from loans to be provided by consortia of local and foreign banks. Building work will be carried out by Chinese firms Anhui Construction and China National Aero-Technology International Engineering Corporation (Catic). JKIA, built to handle 2.5 million passengers annually, has been struggling to handle more than 6 million people.

Kenya has also launched the construction of a new US$13.8billion railway that will eventually link its Indian Ocean port of Mombasa with Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Southern Sudan. The project by the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) is expected to be completed by 2017. The new railway line will see passenger journey times cut from the current 12 hours to around four.

Freight trains are planned to be able to cut the current 36 hour trip by rail to just eight, a major boost for regional landlocked nations, with planners claiming it will slash cargo transport costs by 60 percent. CRBC has so far completed first-stage of an expansion to Mombasa’s port, including a berth able to handle 50,000 tonne container ships.

However, the committee on Transport, Public Works and Housing has expressed reservations on the procurement procedure used to pick China Bridges and Roads Construction as the contractor for the project. Kenya Railways Corporation (KRC) issued the tender solely to CBRC with Kenya’s cabinet secretary for transport defending the deal saying that the Chinese government had seconded the contractor because it was funding most part of the project.

The Attorney General Githu Muigai had earlier trashed that argument saying KRC should have sought a contractor for the project competitively to promote fair competition, transparency and accountability. The chief legal advisor to the Government said the so-called government-to-government agreement is not a method for selecting suppliers.

It is expected that the AG’s opinion could shape the decision of the parliamentary committee, which was asked to determine issues relating to how the tender was awarded and if the winning contractor had the capacity to execute the project. Earlier this month, leaders from Coast also demanded answers on what action the State would take should KRC be found to have erred in awarding the tender.

Among the arguments raised was that the Kenya Government was funding part of the project using public resources, which would then demand that a competitive process be pursued in determining the winning contractor. Earlier, KRC had flip-flopped over the question whether the project had been tendered or the agreement was entered between Kenya and China at intergovernmental level.

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