NAIROBI, 16 March 2021 – The Kenyan government has denied reports that the country risks losing its main port, Mombasa, to China over debt default.
Kenya’s finance minister Ukur Yatani said “there is absolutely no risk of China or any other country taking over the port”.
News reports had claimed that Kenya risks losing control of the port should it fail to repay loans advanced for the construction of a new 293 mile (472km) railway line.
The actual costs of the railway line – at $3.2 billion – came in at three times the costs considering international standards and four times the original estimate, according to official documents.
China funded the project and a local newspaper reported Monday that Beijing would take control of the Mombasa Port if Kenya failed to repay or service the debt.
Loans for the railway line cannot “be paid through any other fund or any other entity without the approval of parliament,” said Yatani in a statement, pushing back on the narrative printed by the newewspaper.
“The government of Kenya cannot and has not pledged public assets as security for a debt because such an action… only violates provisions of its existing loans agreements,” Yatani said.
Last month, Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) introduced the use of double stack trains – each carrying 152 containers instead of 108 – to deal with mounting congestion by speeding up the evacuation of cargo at the Port of Mombasa – the main gateway to East Africa.
Data by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics show the Mombasa Port has recorded an increase in cargo, handling 8.6 million tonnes of cargo in the third quarter of 2020 compared to 8.3 million tonnes in 2019.