Progress in Kenya

The locomotives from China have just been unloaded from ships

Barack Obama could make a railroad run on time

Look at any of the men in the video pretending to work and compare their facial features to Barack Obama. Now look at a picture of Frank Marshall Davis.

Game, Set, Match.

Note that the man running the steel mill is Indian. Kenya is not going to make serious progress with everything being outsourced from Asia, but building of a university System from basically nothing is not a trivial thing. The legacy of British colonial rule still lives on, only the players have changed.

Uganda begins construction following a Memorandum of Understanding allowing Uganda to run its trains over the Kenyan SGR

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14 Responses to Progress in Kenya

  1. TheChairman says:

    The locomotive being lowered from the ship looks like an HO model on a toy crane.

    In another SGR video, a tribe dances around the new engine… a tale of two Kenyas.

    The loco seemed a bit less than ‘modern’ at first glance, but I figured it was a Chinese ‘export’ design…. but there are a lot of comments (presumably from Kenyans) about being “ripped off with repainted Chinese throwaway trains from last century”, and many people wondering what they’re getting. From what I saw, a lot more debt.

    As I see it, China is after raw resources, and a passenger rail system was the carrot. One rather disturbing scene shows the modern control center, with a Windows XP logo on the monitors. Many of the technical and skilled workers seem to be Chinese.

    A few recent comments from ‘Kenya Citizen TV’ Youtube channel reveal quite a bit:

    Theodros Solomon- 1 week ago
    This is absolutely beautiful thing’s for all African, who were war over and over again. This it will be lessons to be future of beautiful African. We would like to thank great peoples of China, who were bring us technology, friendly love,and respect. Chinese always bring us life, not only for African still across the globe. god bless China over and over again as well as Kenyan. love u.

    Reply 2
    Michael Opere- 3 weeks ago
    The Kenyan government has been ripped off big time because China is using Kenya as a dumping ground for these junk and old trains.The Japanese for example already had 300kmh plus bullet trains as early as the nineteen sixtees,these diesel trains belong to the ninetinth centuary.

    Reply 3
    chuindovu- 10 hours ago
    you are right, i cant believe this is the rubbish we are getting. why did we not just do a deal with the Japanese. i wish it was possible to rip the whole thing and return it to china . if anyone believes these are new engines, they are dreaming

    Michael Opere- 48 minutes ago:
    Its impossible to develop through medriocrity as a country, old technological gadgets belong in the museum.

    • Fred Stiening says:

      There are so many aspects to this – I’m glad you picked up on this. I’m a little concerned about accusations of the “R” word

      This is not the only country in Africa doing this. As we discussed earlier Ethiopia is also on the Chinese transit customer list. Science and technology in general literacy is so far behind in most of Africa that it is impossible to think they can ever catch up to the first world. That shows the leaves the people to shell cashews and the Nigerian government officials squandering the oil money and invest the money with Goldman Sachs and things they don’t understand .

      My obnoxious comment about people pretending to work was the observation that the only people who seem to actually know what they were doing were the Chinese technicians. That has been the problem throughout all of these projects – the locals lack the skills to understand the technology in front of them likely never will. At one point, and African worker is tightening a bolt securing the rail to the concrete tie – which makes absolutely no sense beyond trying to look busy in front of the camera.

      The videos show the best and brightest Kenyans going to China to attend school – and largely they seem to have blank stares on their faces. If you don’t know how electricity works, it is hard to understand positive train control safety systems. It is like our hope that we can take a goat herder in Afghanistan and teach them how to fly an Apache helicopter in less than 100 years.

      Regarding the war comment, the US civil war proved the value of being able to move military equipment and troops by rail to suppress insurrection. (Followed up later by the interstate highway system built to milspec)

      Abraham Lincoln pushed full speed ahead with building the transcontinental railroad based on the standard gauge, and reconstruction rebuilt the rail infrastructure in the South, replacing nonstandard gauges and disconnected separate systems. It is not a coincidence that the headquarters of the Southern Railway were a few blocks from the White House .

      The Russians understood this danger, and built all of their railroads to a non-standard gauge. They saw the danger of Germans running up the rail lines with their artillery and soldiers and doing a blitzkrieg. The price Russia paid, and still pays, is transporting goods by rail means transferred in the cargo from standard gauge railcars to Russian gauge. Containers make that easier.

      The Chinese “one belt, one road” initiative has now achieved a single standard gauge railroad from China all the way to England. They also have sealift capability with container ships far beyond anyone else in the world. There was a mention in one of the videos about Kenya being a special partner in the Chinese initiative, as a gateway to open up Africa. Uganda piggybacking on Kenya, letting contracts to let the Chinese build railroads for them paid for with debt just adds to the Chinese dominance of Africa. On the other hand, dragging Africa at least to the 1960s is far better than what it has been after The Europeans were kicked out.

      I am of several minds on this thing. When I watch Mark Dice’s videos of the idiots in California who don’t know anything about anything, one part of me wants to say that the Chinese taking over the world would not be such a bad thing. Bad for me possibly – but not necessarily bad for the world. I would prefer the Chinese over the Indians.

      We are slipping to be almost as far behind as the Kenyans are. Stroll through a high-tech firm or engineering university and almost all of the people there will be Asians of one type or another. Trump’s instincts about cutting off global trade and related contact is just not realistic. It is way too little and way too late. Maybe we can get serious about not letting people be idiots sitting around smoking pot instead of studying calculus and physics in college, but that’s a pretty tall order. I’m not sure America is ready to go there.

      • Fred Stiening says:

        The Nile river dam in Ethiopia is close to complete. It is expected to go online in July 2017, just in time for the railroad. People who have done the math conclude that the dam is grossly oversized and will never be able to use its full 6000 MW capacity. Its practical sustainable size is about 2000 MW, or two gigawatts. To give that a little context, the installed capacity in the United States is about 1000 gigawatts. It is a big improvement over nothing – but without the concept that people need to pay for using it the capacity will magically vanish in no time.

        Apply in a little bit of rational economics, at US prices 2000 MWh would be worth about $60,000 per hour, which works out to about $500 million per year – IF – there is somebody willing and able to pay for the electricity. You cannot give it away because you’re a nice person. The dam is costing about $6 billion – The bonds were sold with 4% interest-rate more or less. That means from the $500 million, you need to subtract out $200 million a year for interest, the costs to operate the system, and the loss due to bribes and corruption. My assumption is those costs are only for the dam, not the costs of the high-voltage transmission lines and infrastructure within the cities to actually use the electricity.

        So with this new found energy, Ethiopia needs to actually create something other than just more Ethiopians. The Indians and Chinese will be glad to build factories with slave labor doing low skill jobs as the costs to build things in their countries goes up.

    • Fred Stiening says:

      Another problem alluded to in the one of the videos is – how are they going to power these trains? South Africa retained steam locomotives for much longer than most of the rest of the world – except China – and built long distance electric main lines powered by coal from power plants, so they would not be dependent on the outside world for oil to run their train system.

      When the new dam on the Nile river is producing electricity, that will run the rail system in Ethiopia, but Kenya and Uganda don’t have the electrical capacity to use it to power their locomotives, so they will be dependent on oil which they probably will not be able to pay for. And again, everything Ethiopia is buying is being funded with Chinese debt.

      This is the kind of stuff Gordon Chang is warning us about, although lately he has been obsessed with the South China Sea stuff and the situation in Hong Kong. The “no blood for oil” crowd scared us away from the idea of actually “taking the spoils of war ” in Iraq. China and Russia will not be bashful. Whether Germany survives their islamic invasion is very much up in the air. Trump at one point caused panic by suggesting that the United States should “just take Iraq’s oil” to pay for the war. That is not a practical thing to do but at least he is thinking about what is in the national best interest of the United States – his opinion is we should never have gone To Iraq, not worry about how to pay for it after the fact.

      If you see bizarre misspellings in my comments, I am writing very quickly using my iPads transcription feature, and it produces odd things I may not catch right away, so read my comments phonetically. You people are old enough to know how to do that, and we’re not taught “see say” The treats English words like Chinese characters. Emoticons are Gently pushing us in that direction anyhow


      • TheChairman says:

        The locomotives (according to SGR) will all be Diesel. In one of the videos, someone mentions a fuel allotment (subsidy/loan?). From a total of 56 locomotives, only 5 are for passenger trains. Top speed is to be 75 mph, which is on par with trains in AZ.

        There may be local transit loops (Nairobi) which may be all electric, but those aren’t part of the main rail line westward.

        One of the reasons I posted the 4 comments from YouTube was to illustrate the strata (set aside class and ethnic distinctions which add even more layers), versus ‘expectations’. You have a blend of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd world civilization in a small country.

        The first comment is from someone who has access to modern communication, but little education or critical knowledge.

        Comments #2, 3, 4 appear to be from more educated/informed people, perhaps with direct experiences in Europe, Japan, etc.

        What is not surprising (to me), is the notion that #2-4 want a Bullet Train, and they want it now! This makes me doubt they were educated at a university, because building high-speed rail is much more complex and expensive… and the ‘rail kill’ might be very high with all the wildlife. Furthermore, there are other videos promoting the tourism aspect, wildlife being a big draw.

        You might notice an ethnic difference as to who is a rail worker or technician, and Kenyans with an Oxford style education…

        It’s going to be very interesting to see if this works for Kenya, as it could be the model for development, or disaster. Rail is still the most efficient method of moving people/cargo over land.

        Regarding power grids, resources, and development: we have absolutely no idea what the college-educated Kenyan leaders negotiated with China, nor do most Kenyans for that matter. The port, trade, treaties, collateralized loans (resources & labor) are probably all part of the mix. One thing we can be certain, China is executing a strategy while we are in a daze.

        • Fred Stiening says:

          Early on in one of the videos two monkeys are crossing the tracks in front of the locomotive. I considered pointing that out, but was concerned people might misunderstand if I said that the trains might run over a lot of monkeys.

          Getting to standard gauge is the really crucial part. China likes to build a high-speed trains, but they are probably overkill for Africa. It’s too big of a jump every single step. True high-speed rail requires separation of freight from passenger service. Amtrak will never have real high-speed service until you stop using the freight tracks from the 1860s. High-speed only rail can have substantially steeper grades than freight and bridges do not need to be as substantial, but you need high-speed switches better train control systems and substantially more maintenance of the road bed

          Shockingly the California high-speed rail from nowhere to Nowhere is running way over budget

          • TheChairman says:

            The locomotives and classification yards visible in some videos make it clear this is about freight. It’s obvious why China helped build the port, there is a new large scale mining project to the south with it’s own berth at the main port: Base Titanium.

            • Fred Stiening says:

              One of the issues with high speed rail is the trade off between speed and capacity. India is also in the midst of a major build out of high-speed rail. Indian railways is the largest private employer in the world, and has a staggering amount of ridership.

              But to have extremely long trains with huge capacity means they can’t go very fast. People and animals tresspassing on the tracks are a huge problem.

              So China is building high-speed passenger rail like crazy, but with 1.4 billion people and they single train holding maybe 1000 people, most people are never going to experience riding the train

        • Fred Stiening says:

          Apparently, the rail line in Ethiopia just went live.

          I am moderately optimistic about Africa. Maybe a year ago I posted some YouTube links from Lagos Nigeria. Scrambling for day-to-day survival has a definite excitement about it, that is entirely of lacking in Americans. Immigrants will continue to eat our lunch because we’ve come to expect everything to be easy with no effort. As long as immigrants motivation is not vindictive – to try to destroy the United States, immigration is a good thing even if it makes us uncomfortable.

    • TheChairman says:

      Saw the source article last week, but it was much more in depth. I will try to find the link. Anyway, I immediately thought of your posts regarding the Kenyan rail system last year. Somehow, the outcome will be blamed on straight white men…

      • CC1s121LrBGT says:

        First they came for us in the TV sitcoms, but we didn’t do anything because we didn’t watch TV sitcoms….

        • Fred Stiening says:

          Or Oprah

          When it comes to Radio, Black and Hispanic people listen to more radio on average. Of course, the less than average disposable income makes them less attractive to advertisers…

          • CC1s121LrBGT says:

            How about a multi-million dollar federally funded study to enlighten the white privledged view.

            Thesis : “Black and Hispanic people listen to more radio on average ” BECAUSE they have “less than average disposable income”, i.e., can not afford a data plan that would allow them to stream video. 😉 Time to upgrade the Obamaphone?


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