The Chinese firm responsible for building the first Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) in East Africa plans to design and build an engineering school worth $10 million in Kenya. The school jointly funded by China Communications and Construction Company and its subsidiary China Road and Bridge Corporation will be a real shot in the arm for the country’s efforts in building its local talent, to meet rising demand from expanding and modernising its infrastructure network.
According to the government, the institute will hone technical skills of students who have degree certificates in engineering to specialise in rail construction, thus boosting the number of local professionals absorbed in mega projects.
This was announced during the graduation ceremony of 103 students who have undergone a three-month training program at the Railway Training Institute in Nairobi.
“Although a lack of adequate infrastructure is an impediment to doing business, equally a big bottleneck relating to efficiency in transport systems and high cost of doing business is a lack of human capital with requisite skills and competencies” said the principle secretary of transport on behalf of the cabinet secretary.
In partnership with the Chinese construction company and nine lecturers from Southwest Jiaotong University, the Kenyans completed basic, short-term courses on traffic and transportation management, telecommunications control engineering and locomotive and rolling stock engineering. The basic entry requirement for the courses was a diploma certificate in engineering course from recognised training institutions.
According to the minister, the training will ensure seamless operation and management of the $3.27 billion railway line upon its official launch scheduled for next year in July. “Our aim as a government is to build local capacity where Kenyan professionals will be exposed to aspects of design, construction and management of railways.”
CRBC is currently constructing the 472 km first phase of the SGR project between the port city of Mombasa and Nairobi. The infrastructure once in use is expected to improve speed and capacity of railway transport in Kenya, greatly improving trade between Mombasa and its vast hinterland, which includes Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan and eastern parts of Democratic Republic of Congo.
“With the transport sector contributing between 5 percent and 15 percent of the GDP in the countries of the Great Lakes Region, we recognise that we enjoy a geographical strategic location surrounded by growing economies that provide an enormous opportunity for transport business” said the minister.
The graduation ceremony for the first batch of technicians was attended by top officials from the government of Kenya, Chinese embassy and CRBC among others.