The Star: Railway Upgrade will Boost Business

KENYA Railways wants to upgrade and expand the rail network in East Africa.

The costs are huge but this is the right move. The whole colonial enterprise started with the construction of the Uganda Railway. The motives were geopolitical (to secure the headwaters of the Nile) and business (to cheaply export African commodities and import European manufactured goods).

Even if it was an instrument of imperialism, the railway transformed East Africa.

The Uganda Railway cost five million pounds to build and bankrupted the British East India Company before government took it over. People said the cost would never be recovered but it paid for itself many times over.

Upgrading the Mombasa-Malaba railway to standard gauge will cost an estimated Sh240 billion but likewise it will pay for itself many times over.

The cost of trucking a container from Mombasa to Kampala is twice the cost of bringing that container to Mombasa from Shanghai. That is absurd. Freight costs will halve if the railway is rehabilitated.

Companies will become more profitable and government will recover the costs in additional tax revenue.

Rail is still the preferred mode for long-distance bulk freight around the world.

Government should have no hesitation in sup-porting this upgraded railway.

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