The Coalition of the Willing has set August 30 as the deadline a memorandum of understanding with engineering, procurement and construction contractors should be signed to pave the way for the construction of the standard gauge railway line (SGR).
Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia and South Sudan agreed during the recent Ministerial Meeting of the Northern Corridor Integration Projects, that the projects must start by October 2014 in order to meet the March 2018 deadline.
But just three months to the deadline of commencement of all sections of the SGR, some countries are still at the tendering stage.
Kenya and Uganda have been tasked to immediately begin construction of the Nairobi-Malaba and Kisumu-Malaba-Kampala sections. In addition, Uganda and Rwanda have been asked to fast-track the preliminary engineering design study for the Kampala-Kigali section.
The Mombasa-Nairobi section has begun and South Sudan has signed an MoU for an engineering, procurement and construction contract for the Nimule-Juba section.
Ministers from the five countries recommended that financing for the projects be expedited.
China in May this gave Kenya Ksh327 billion ($3.8 billion) to fund the building of the SGR line between Mombasa and Nairobi. China will finance 85 per cent of the total cost through Export and Import (Exim) Bank of China while Kenya will pay the remaining 15 per cent through the railway levy charged on imported goods.
But the East African Business Council has termed Kenya’s proposed 1.5 per cent development levy on all goods from member states as unfair.
Henry Rotich, the Kenyan National Treasury Cabinet Secretary, had announced the introduction of the 1.5 per cent levy on all imports into Kenya to fund the construction of the new railway.
The Kenya Revenue Authority officials said although there were ongoing discussions to exempt goods from within the region but slap a 2.25 per cent levy on goods from outside the region.
On the Uganda and Rwanda side, progress seems to be faster with Gauff Ingenieure, a German infrastructure consultant, having been awarded an $8.6 million contract to design the SGR line linking Kampala with Kigali.