State mulls plan to link EPZ to railway

Athi River EPZ

MAS Intimates Kenya staff at work at the Export Processing Zone in Athi River on September 16, 2021.

Photo credit: Lucy Wanjiru | Nation Media Group

The government is planning to link the Athi River Export Processing Zone (EPZ) to the standard gauge railway (SGR) line in a Sh3.7 billion public-private partnership project.

The mega project will comprise a railway siding, layby to accommodate 10 trucks, a 450 square-metre go-down, a two-storey office block and a parking lot for 30 small vehicles.

It is hoped that the project which will take 24 months to complete will help attract local and international investors.

Two cargo trains will be made available to transport raw materials into the zone and finished products to the port of Mombasa.

The National Social Security Fund (NSSF), alongside other entities, are expected to fund the project.

During a site visit on Monday, Cabinet Secretaries Kipchumba Murkomen (Road, Transport and Public Works), Moses Kuria (Trade and Industry), and Florence Bore (Labour and Social Protection) underscored the importance of improving Kenya’s competitiveness by cutting production costs.

Mr Kuria said the government is rooting for more investors that will create at least four million jobs annually.

“The Kenya Kwanza government wants more investors to set up companies in the controlled zones and enjoy the incentives. We expect to create more jobs in the garment industry. Kenya will fight for a niche in the global apparel market,” Mr Kuria said, adding that the government will ensure a steady water supply and bargain for incentives on electricity billing for the investors.

He further said that his ministry will establish eight more EPZ flagship centres across the county to offload the demand that will be occasioned by the great need for space within the facility in Athi River.

“We have many investors who are willing to set up in our country. The eight flagship zones will take demand pressure off the Athi River EPZ and create two million jobs each annually,” Mr Kuria added.

Mr Murkomen said the government is seeking to partner with the private sector to build infrastructure projects.

“Usage of the railway to move goods will significantly reduce the cost of transportation.

“This project will be one facet towards boosting manufacturing which will guarantee more exports, especially in the clothing industry,” he said.

He added that the reason why the country is struggling with low foreign exchange reserves is lack of enough locally produced goods for export.

Ms Bore said the higher NSSF monthly contributions will act as the ministry’s launching pad to partner with other government departments to establish projects with maximum returns for the pension fund.

The Athi River EPZ boasts of more than 18 companies in garment manufacturing, pharmaceuticals and agribusiness occupying 70 per cent of the expansive land with a workforce of 18,000.