NAIROBI — Over a year since work started on the first phase of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) line between Mombasa and Nairobi, the project has been providing livelihoods and incomes to Kenyan families and entire communities, Xinhua reports.
When Thomas Mwangi packed his bags from Embu and headed for Voi mid last year, he didn’t know his life would take a new direction.
A father of three and the sole bread winner for his family, Mwangi said he chose to try his luck in Voi after a friend told him about the Standard Gauge Railway Line that is currently under construction.
“I didn’t know what was awaiting me ahead, but my gut feeling was something good was awaiting. I didn’t even have the bus fare to Voi, I borrowed 700 shillings from my mother and on my way I almost gave up, but I thank God, I didn’t go back,” said Mwangi.
Mwangi is among thousands of young Kenyans whose lives have taken a new direction after getting jobs at the Chinese-funded railway project.
Were it not for this job, Mwangi’s son wouldn’t have gone to high school. The son is now in grade one.
“I lost my job at a milk processing company in early 2014 and getting jobs isn’t that easy. So when I heard about the Standard Gauge Railway I knew I had to move fast as my son was sitting his Kenya Certificate of Primary Education exams the same year,” he told Xinhua during the interview.
Mwangi has not only taken his son to school, but has also set up a shop for his wife in Embu town.
“My wife is a trained Early Childhood Education teacher, but after giving birth to our last born who is now one and half years, she quit her job and hasn’t been able to secure another one. I set up a small shop for her and our lives are different now,” he said.
Joe Kimani’s story isn’t different. Even though Kimani was pessimistic at first when Mwangi told him about it, he said he will forever be indebted toMwangi who helped him open a new chapter in his life.
“I’m 24 years old but throughout my life, I have never been employed, life hasn’t been easy even though I don’t have a family. Being jobless is not something you would even wish for an enemy. The Standard Gauge Railway came to rescue people like me who were rotting in the village with nothing to do. I’m an electrical engineering diploma holder, but I have nothing to write about my certificate,” said Kimani.
Kimani said he had lost hope in life, but now he plans to marry his childhood sweetheart since he has an income that can sustain a family.
James Wandera, a graduate, said even though his plan is to get a job that is in line with his career in future, the railway project funded by China has at least given his young family a new lease.
“I moved my son who was in a public school to a private school. I’m happy now that my family can’t go for a night without food,” said Wandera.
Apart from providing jobs for the Kenyan youth, the railway is also expected to reduce congestion at Mombasa Port and direct the traffic flow away from the crowded streets and onto the railway.
Kenya is known as the region’s logistics, trade and transport hub. Yet, its railway dates back to the colonial era and the 300-mile (483 kilometer) journey from Mombasa to Nairobi currently takes at least 12 hours for passengers — freight trains take up to 36. The railway is old and large parts of the tracks remain unused, while roads are crowded and traffic is slow.
In November 2013, the Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta laid the foundation stone for the construction of the railway line in Mombasa that will connect the coastal city with the Kenyan capital Nairobi.
“The project will define my legacy as president of Kenya. What we are doing here today will most definitely transform not only Kenya but also the whole eastern African region,” Kenyatta said.
The railway is being built by the state-owned China Road and Bridge Corporation. Work is expected to be completed by 2017.