Kenya's popular Nairobi-Mombasa train service is fueling the country's modernization while enhancing social and economic linkages with neighbors, an expert said on Tuesday.
In a commentary published by the Standard newspaper, Otiato Opali, a Nairobi-based expert on topical issues, hailed the transformation the passenger service, dubbed the Madaraka Express, has unleashed in Kenya.
"One cannot help but notice how the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) has changed the way Kenyans travel," said Opali.
"Besides reducing the perennial road accidents and making travelling fast and convenient, the prospects of the SGR and rail transport for Kenya are enormous," he added.
The Chinese-built SGR commuter train has so far ferried more than 2 million passengers since its launch by President Uhuru Kenyatta on May 31, 2017.
Opali noted that the SGR heralds a bright future for Kenya and the wider eastern African region amid quest for infrastructure modernization to realize industrial renaissance.
"Imagining how full rail adoption might overhaul our transport sector in the next 30 years if properly implemented paints a very promising picture," said Opali, adding that electrification of the SGR would be a game changer in local travel and commerce.
The expert said that African countries could reap dividends if they tapped into technological breakthroughs like artificial intelligence, big data and remote sensors to modernize their railway transport.
Kenya is currently implementing the 120 km phase 2A of the SGR linking Nairobi to the resort town of Naivasha and will later extend it to the lake side city of Kisumu before it reaches Malaba town that neighbors Uganda.
"With the SGR projected to go past Uganda into Sudan, the Congo and beyond, we expect an increase in intra-Africa trade, which currently stands at partly 12 percent compared to America, Europe and Asia at 60 percent to 80 percent," said Opali.
He noted that the SGR has the capacity to convert the Kenyan hinterland into an industrial hub.
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