September 13—Consultants, hired by the Export-Import Bank of China (Exim Bank), are in Uganda for the next three weeks on a field visit to all the projects the bank is financing and have talks with top government officials about future funding for other projects.
A top priority for the government is construction of the $2 billion-plus Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) to link Malaba at the Kenya/Uganda border with Kampala, a distance of just over 270 kilometres. Exim is expected to put up the bulk of the money and a Chinese contractor will build the railway.
“As far as Government of Uganda is concerned, this is the number one priority project; we want to move it forward,” Keith Muhakanizi, the Permanent Secretary in the finance ministry told the Chinese early this week during a meeting at the Treasury.
Exim Bank is a state-funded and state-owned policy bank with the status of an independent legal entity. It is a bank directly under the leadership of the State Council and dedicated to supporting China’s foreign trade, investment and international economic cooperation.
The Chinese team is lead by officials from the Fourth Railway Survey & Design Institute, a consulting firm hired by Exim Bank to oversee the SGR. They will visit the key construction points along the route including kilometre 00 (the starting point of the SGR), the super bridge in Jinja, Kampala East station in Namanve, swamp bridges, Tororo station and the Access Road Flyover.
Kasingye Kyamugambi, the SGR Project Coordinator said,“Purposely they are here to look at the technical, financial and the economic viability, this is a routine procedure carried out by all financiers especially for mega-infrastructure projects.”
The Chinese have held talks with Bageya Wasswa, the Permanent Secretary in the works ministry. Top on the agenda is evaluating whether the project, as designed, is economically viable, whether all the engineering has been well done and whether all the risks both technical and financial have been taken care of.
The team comprises four engineers, two economists, two geo-technicians and alignment experts among others. “It is a great step, and we will be working with them,” Kyamugambi said.
So far, several design reconciliation and harmonization projects have either been completed or are ongoing. Among them is the intersection at Access Road between the proposed Japanese International Cooperation Agency funded flyover, the old metre gauge railway and the SGR on the outskirts of the city centre.
According to officials, after intense discussions with all the stakeholders including Kampala Capital City Authority, Uganda National Road Authority, the flyover was elevated higher and the SGR will have a separate grade crossing.
Avoiding many intersections between Jinja Kampala Express Way and the SGR would require harmonizing the levels and angles of approach, the Jinja Kampala Express Way (JKEW) is being re-aligned to run along the SGR and UNRA decided on this for the sake of harmonizing infrastructure along the Northern Corridor.
SGR Secretariat is also working with Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Limited to ensure that future construction and designs are harmonized with the SGR as well as district roads. National Water and Sewerage Corporation is also being consulted to move water utilities affected by SGR.