Loads of optimism about SGR but concerns still abound

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A cargo train is launched to operate on the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) line constructed by the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) and financed by Chinese government in Kenya's coastal city of Mombasa, May 30, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTX389W3

Despite the criticism, the new Standard Gauge Railway seems to have been warmly received.

In an interview with Chinese news agency Xinhua, Rwandan Minister of Finance and Economic Planning Claver Gatete said that the project was very successful and thanked the Chinese for their support. He also revealed that discussions were underway with a view of spreading benefit to the entire region.

While praising the new system for its efficiency, Al Jazeera was also quick to highlight concern on costs. It cited high level corruption, concerns over the impact on wildlife and a Sh320 billion price tag blamed on poor negotiations with the Chinese have dogged the project.

Chinese blogspot shanghaiist.com labelled the railway as “comfy and modern” and with the potential of linking the whole of eastern Africa in the future. There was still mention of inflated costs and other economic concerns though.

CGTN America was particularly critical of the rail’s impact on the environment. Whilst acknowledging the input of environmentalists in the construction process, it emphasised that these efforts are not enough for the future. According to CGNT, the railway will disturb ecosystems and set a precedent for development inside the country’s national parks.

The CNN branded it a game changer. Picking from economist Aly Khan Satchu, CNN noted that as well as opening a three billion-person market to the Indian Ocean economy; the rail would also enable easy access of cheap geothermal power in Naivasha, effectively transferring Kenya into a regional power hub. There was still a mention of the criticisms though.

Voice of America echoed the President’s sentiments that the rail would boost GDP, enabling the country to pay back the loans in less than 4 years. It, however, urged caution lest the corruption that has clouded construction undermined its potential. Mention was also made on the need to develop other sectors of the economy as well so as to complement the railway.

The BBC as well as newspapers, The Herald and Uganda’s The Independent, whilst praising the project also urged similar caution.

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