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The Future of Chinese-Financed Infrastructure in Kenya

The China Road and Bridge Corporation is building a massive new half-a-billion dollar expressway right through the Kenyan capital of Nairobi. But this project is very different than previous Chinese-financed infrastructure initiatives in Kenya, like the ailing Standard Gauge Railway for example, where the government borrowed billions from the China Exim Bank.

Instead, the new Nairobi Expressway is a public-private-partnership (PPP) where CRBC is putting up the money and in turn, will receive a long-term concession to recoup its investment before handing the road back to the Kenyan government. It’s easy to see why a lot of people like this model given that the host country doesn’t incur any debt and the contractor has a chance to earn a sizable return on its investment. But in Kenya, as in many countries, PPPs are complicated and very risky.

Nairobi-based journalist Ismail Einashe is closely following the development of the new Nairobi Expressway and shared some of his reflections of the project in a “Letter From Africa” that was recently published on BBC News. Ismail joins Eric & Cobus from Nairobi to discuss why this particular road could tell us a lot about the future of infrastructure financing in Africa.

Show Notes:

About Ismail Einashe:

Ismail Einashe is an award-winning journalist and writer currently based in Nairobi. He has written for The Guardian, BBC News, The Sunday Times, Foreign Policy, The Nation and NPR, among many others. In 2019, he was an Alicia Patterson Foundation Fellow where he reported on China’s role in Africa, focusing on Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Zambia. He has been shortlisted for the European Press Prize 2020 and in 2019 he was awarded a Migration Media Award. Ismail co-edited the book Lost in Media: Migrant Perspectives and the Public Sphere (Valiz, 2019), a collection of essays on the representations of migrants and refugees in the European media. He is also a Senior Journalist at Lost in Europe, a cross-border journalism project investigating the disappearance of child migrants in Europe.

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