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China-built railway fast-tracks opportunities for Kenyan youth

China Daily | Updated: 2024-01-12 09:48
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A delegation of envoys visits the dispatch center at Nairobi railway station of the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway in Nairobi, Kenya, in October. WANG GUANSEN/XINHUA

NAIROBI — Dennis Ogeto's humble upbringing in a rural hamlet in western Kenya could not stop him from dreaming big.

Now, this dream of a better life is coming true thanks to a Chinese-built railway.

A career spanning over five years at the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway has changed the 33-year-old's life dramatically, as he is not only earning a living, but also pursuing a career.

"I dream of getting a managerial position at the SGR in the years to come and hope one day it will be extended to the Ugandan border so that it creates more opportunities for fellow youth," Ogeto said.

Since joining the SGR in 2018, the mechanical engineering major and former construction worker has realized how rewarding his academic efforts can be.

Ogeto is now working in the dispatch section, assembling wagons for the passenger and freight trains that ply the Mombasa-Nairobi and Suswa routes.

"The training by Chinese instructors has been very good, because when I joined the SGR I had few skills, but now I have learned a lot of skills," Ogeto said.

He said he has also acquired managerial and social skills from his Chinese supervisors, including better time management, self-discipline, hard work, communication with passengers and colleagues, and respect for diversity.

For Ogeto and many young men like him, the SGR is more than just a fast track to convenience — it is one that also offers more opportunities and personal fulfillment.

The SGR, a flagship project of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative, has led to skills and technology transfers, benefiting local youth, since its launch in 2017.

The railway has been a catalyst for transformation in Kenya, helping to localize its workforce by hiring a growing number of young professionals in key sections like locomotives, track, signal and management.

Lawrence Pius Murithi, another young man from the central Kenyan countryside, is also a beneficiary of the SGR.

Murithi, a deputy superintendent at the rolling stock department of the railway, is in charge of supervising the track maintenance.

Over the past six years, his work at the SGR has trained him comprehensively. Earning a decent salary, he has been able to purchase land and run a livestock business, too.

"Working for the SGR has improved my lifestyle and I look forward to furthering my education so that I can be in the company's top management," Murithi said, adding that he is determined to help more young people pursue decent, life-changing careers.

Government statistics indicate that the 480-km modern railway line has contributed to Kenya's GDP growth by 1.5 percent. Kenya's infrastructure modernization has accelerated thanks to input from China in terms of capital, technology and reskilling of local youth.

Stephen Mutua, a 39-year-old father of three, is a proud team leader at the track and bridge maintenance section of the Ngong SGR station, located on the western hillsides of Nairobi.

"I have gained knowledge, especially from the Chinese technicians who have taught us a lot in the areas of management, planning, and inspecting the track and bridges," said Mutua, who joined the SGR in 2019.

In the near future, Mutua plans to return to college for studies in railway operations and maintenance, and hopefully secure a senior managerial position at his current employer.


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