To hold the rare record of moving your country from lunatic train to standard gauge train within a record time is surely an accomplishment that will excite anybody, being a leader or follower. That feeling was evident in the person of President Uhuru Kenyatta while boarding the SGR Train today.
What interest top leaders in the Kenyan project is the completion on record time and the level of commitment demonstrated by partners both locally and internationally. The project is no doubt controversial. What is taken into account is that even the lunatic train was controversial.There are issues no doubt;yet those concerns and worries cannot remove one reality.
Linking the port of Mombasa with Kenyan interior through Nairobi and down to other East African nations is a major accomplishment ,the gains of which will be gradual. The vast opportunities existing around the project are unquantifiable and the growth potential for Kenyan economy is truly impressive.
When the issue of huge debt is raised and when the question of collateral is mentioned, the immediate response is to affirm that the project is sustainable and Kenya is not under risk of forfeiting her port to China. The Chinese wont drive the matter to that stage. On debt,the SGR has huge potential to gradually offset the loans. There can be no real development without a measure of pain.The challenge in Nairobi is that national politics is mixed with developmental projects and so it is hard to say good things about your political enemies.
What Uhuru achieved by the SGR and the ongoing big four places him high on the rating of developmental leaders in Africa. Opening up Kenya for business is very much dependent on bridging the infrastructural gap. Your port functions more rewardingly when rail freight is integrated. Achieving such feat under such intense political crisis and confrontation is a rare attainment.
In some African countries, such project will take over 20 years to complete even after loans have been taken and retaken. In a country, almost four billion dollar loan was taken for a railway project ;in 2018,the project has been re-awarded to another company.In such clime, you not only have the loan to repay but you do not have the project to celebrate.In the case of Kenya, the project beats the completion deadline and the service is functioning.
Some other countries which started with Kenya have developed cold feet. That is the product of small thinking among leaders.While the Moroccan monarchy has delivered on the first speed train in Africa ,some voices in Nairobi for political reasons are questioning the need for an SGR in 21st century Kenya. The reality is that African leaders must think big and plan big to grow the continent out of poverty. How can you stick with a lunatic train for so long and yet you dare to label a man who is courageous enough to deliver a new economically viable plan?
Well, is Uhuru government corrupt? That is a legal question. But Kenyans are lucky for many reasons. First is that you can see and feel what the loan is spent on.Two, you can question how the money was expended. Three you can exercise your voting right at the right time.But we must admit that a man has done well for taken the nation out of lunatic heritage.
So when President Kenyatta stepped into the train today, he was clearly a fulfilled man.He conceived a project, secured Chinese funding and ensured the implementation of the project.His records no Kenyan president has it. If Uhuru is not the father of modern Kenyan, I don’t know who else can take that title?
*Abdulahi Dele Writes from Abuja Nigeria