Kenya’s New Lunatic Express: The Standard Gauge Railway


  • Ian Taylor


The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) aims to integrate Africa into an ambitious Chinese-constructed infrastructure network that seeks to link the economies of participating countries to that of China’s. However, serious concerns about its cost for the host countries, the legacy and sustainability—alongside the social and environmental costs—of its projects have raised questions as to its value and long-term future. The Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), linking Mombasa to Nairobi and beyond has been portrayed as a centre piece of the BRI in East Africa. Both the Chinese and Kenyan governments have represented the SGR as an example par excellence of Sino-African cooperation and the ubiquitous “win-win” partnerships that this is said to engender. However, serious issues with the SGR in terms of its cost, viability and practicality has meant that it is increasingly being seen within Kenya as an expensive white elephant beset with numerous intractable problems.