Monday, 17 April 2017

Kenya's is the cheapest SGR in East Africa

Mombasa Super Bridge on Kenya's SGR
 KENYA'S STANDARD GAUGE RAILWAY  is the cheapest in East Africa, we can report. It cost US$4.43 million per kilometer while Ethiopia spent $5 million, Eritrea $ 5.05 and Tanzania's central Corridor will cost $4.05 million for the same length.

This is despite the fact they are upgrades on existing lines and are of inferior quality to Northern Corridor SGR.

 The Central Corridor line is AREMA standard while the Ethiopian Djibouti line is Class two Chinese standard. The Northern Corridor, on the other hand, is Class one Chinese standard designed for double stack wagons while the other two are single stack lines. The Maximum load capacity of both the Central Corridor and the Ethiopian line is 20 tones while the Northern Corridor's capacity is 35 tonnes.

In addition, the Central Corridor and the Ethiopian lines have level Crossings with no bridges, The Kenyan line on the other hand boast of 29.5 Km of bridges and no level crossings. Experts say that bridges take 30 percent of rail or road construction cost because of embankments.

We will ignore the nagging question whether Tanzania can generate enough power to run a train.

 Already, the 300 Km  Dar- Morogoro section, whose construction the President launched last week, will cost a whopping $1.215 billion according to Tanzania’s Daily News. That works out to $4.05 million per Kilometer and that excludes land compensation and electrification.
A Double stacked Train
 These new figures put paid to the allegation the Kenyan SGR, though a greenfield project, is the most expensive in East Africa.

The numbers also answer the critical” question: Just what is the difference between the Northern Corridor Standard Gauge Railway and the other two in East Africa?  If the numbers here are anything to go by, the myth that the Northern Corridor SGR is expensive is debunked. Kenya’s greenfield SGR is the cheapest in the region at $4.43 million per Kilometer.  
 The debate about the three SGR lines centers on cost leaving out other factors at play in the costing of any SGR line.  The Northern Corridor SGR, say critics, is the most expensive in East Africa and therefore some fellows in power must have pocketed a large chunk of the money through rent-seeking, they conclude.
This is simplistic.  
An Embankment on Kenya's SGR
 The second difference, the Northern Corridor is built on rugged terrain with peaks and dips while the other two are on relatively flat terrain. Therefore the Northern Corridor Railway line, which is the busiest Corridor in the region, must have embankments, tunnels, and viaducts to keep the line as flat as possible

The third and critical difference is: The northern Corridor SGR is greenfield while the other two are upgrades of old railway lines.

The 752.7km Ethiopia-Djibouti railway is an upgrade of the meter-gauge line to a 1,435mm gauge line, and electrification at 25kV.

It seems that the cost of upgrading a kilometer including installing electric lines is a standard US$ 5 million. Here, the contractor has to ensure that a lot of engineering facets such as Viaducts, tunnels, and embankments are minimized or eliminated. Where they cannot be avoided, they should be as short as possible. Cutting costs is the leading design determinant.
A Tunnel

The Cost per Kilometre for a greenfield project does not appear standardized given the peculiar circumstances of each region and country. Further, such engineering instruments as viaducts, Embankments, and tunnels are not avoided or minimized. Here the smooth run of the train is a major design determinant.

 These findings debunk the myth by some analysts of questionable integrity that the “Lunatic Express” which runs from Mombasa to Kampala, could be upgraded at US$200 million.

The known expenditure on these three lines thus explodes the myth that Northern Corridor is expensive. In fact, the northern corridor, even as a greenfield project, is more than $50,000 cheaper per Kilometre than the upgraded ones.

According to an investor Brief prepared for the Rwanda Government, the scope of works of the $7.6 billion Tanzanian line will include upgrading the 960 Km Dar-es-salaam- Isaka section to standard gauge-“keeping to the existing alignment as much as possible.”

  This, analysts say, is likely to be extended to Mwanza which will mean that the upgrade will involve 1,219 KM. Tanzania will build just about 320 kilometres of greenfield Standard Gauge Railway between Isaka and Keza on the border with Rwanda.

Kenya’s SGR between Nairobi and Mombasa cost $2.66 billion or $4.43 million a kilometre. If the cost of the $1.44 billion contract for the supply of Locomotives and rolling stock namely; 56 Locomotives, 40 passenger coaches, 1620 wagons, the Mombasa –Nairobi section, which is 600 kilometres of railway plus the locomotives and rolling stock cost $4.1 billion.

On the second score that of carrying capacity, the class two Chinese standard line is beaten hands down.  The wagons axle load capacity is 25 tons maximum while the Northern Corridor SGR has 25 tons as the minimum axle load capacity.

Therefore the Northern Corridor line can carry more freight than the upgrade one-meter gauge lines.  Consequently, wagons are double stack wagons that can carry two containers stacked one on top of the other. The wagons on the northern corridor will carry more freight per trip than the other two. In fact, 56 double stack wagons will haul 4,000 tons, what 130 trucks carry.

 On the other hand, the Ethiopian line’s only publicly recorded haulage is nearly 1, 200 tons of relief food in 2015.  That is nearly a quarter of what will be hauled on the northern corridor in a single run.

Yet,  on this simplistic analysis that the Tanzanian President, John Magufuli, according to Uganda’s Daily Monitor Newspaper, attempted to woe Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni, to discard the Northern Corridor in favour of the Central Corridor. This sounds like a pipe dream.

Here’s why; Tanzania is inviting Uganda to abandon its SGR ambitions and all its potential benefits to rely on Tanzania instead!  That is like transferring one’s inheritance to a neighbour’s children.  Uganda is being asked to retain its archaic 19th century railway line so that Tanzania’s SGR can remain profitable! According to the Investor Briefing referred to earlier, Tanzania can only generate 3.1 million tons of freight for a line designed to carry 1aA7 million tons a year.

 If Uganda falls for the trick, it will have to abandon its 1617 Km network which is projected to save the country US$2 billion a year in freight costs and also abandon the Uganda- South Sudan Line thus hurting its business interests in South Sudan. The entire 1617Km of the Uganda section of the SGR will cost an estimated $12.8 billion, says Uganda’s Daily Monitor while the Kenyan side will cost an estimated $11.4 billion, it says.

 A Railway line opens up opportunities in a country; creating new business opportunities for people neighbouring the line, easing the cost of transport and improving on the transit time. In effect, a railway line has direct links with the local economy.

Consequently, Uganda will be transferring her potential benefits to Tanzania if she abandons her SGR as she will have to ship her imports and exports through Tanzanian Ports.  A large Ferry can carry only 45 containers, meaning to off-load a 218 container train will require Five ferries.

Marine transport across Lake Victoria collapsed more than a decade ago, says the Monitor in another report. It will thus need massive investment in infrastructure, Marine Vessels and other equipment to meet demands of a modern high-speed railway. Short of this, Marine transport across Lake Victoria will become a bottleneck to Uganda’s international trade.

 The journey across the Lake could take more than 8 hours of travel assuming the seamless transfer of the freight. 
This compares negatively to the two hours by high-speed train from Malaba to Kampala.  This section is 273 Kilometres long and, according to reports, will cost $2.3 billion. This works out to an average cost of US$8.5 billion which includes the cost of locomotives and rolling stock at US$180 million. One wonders how many locos, freight wagons and passenger coaches this money can buy.

 The East African report quotes Uganda Officials as saying that the Malaba- Kampala section will be 339KM of rail and that its costs include the cost of building a polytechnic in Tororo, eastern Uganda for $30 million, staff facilities for $25 million and spend $20 million to improve the Kampala railway station.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Be wary of this college

Students and Parents seeking quality British Education in Kenya had better do a due diligence on the colleges claiming to offer such “education at your door step.” One such college is Edulink International College based on Ngong road Nairobi.

The parent company of college, has a history of disappointing its students and parents elsewhere. Edulink Consultants, the parent company is based in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates.  
It entered Africa via Victoria University in Kampala Uganda in 2011. The university, though a  provisionally licensed institution, was affiliated to the privately owned University of Buckingham in the UK.

 It had admitted some 180 students by late 2012 but it closed its doors in January 2013, citing a disagreement on Gay rights with the Uganda government. Uganda has a hardline stance on gay rights and had by then proposed legislation outlawing Homosexual practices. 

The University of Buckingham withdrew its support to Victoria University citing restrictions to freedom of Speech.  It was not clear how teaching Accounts and other business related disciplines, that the University of Buckingham was to teach, and examine, were affected by any legislation on sexual orientation.

The withdrawal of BU caused the closure of Victoria University which was later sold to Ugandan tycoon, Sudhir Ruparelia. It now operates under the management of Ruparelia group of Companies.

The 180 students in the University’s register at that time were told they would be admitted at the University of Middlesex in Dubai. Few were taken and the rest abandoned. 

Some, it was said could not raise the air ticket to Dubai while others never got the Visa for Dubai.  For all these students, the dream of a cheap and high quality education evaporated. They never graduated. The numbers of the affected students are not clear.  

Even before the closure was announced, the then, Vice chancellor, Martin O'Hara had already stepped down as the head of Victoria University in Kampala in November 2011, just a few months after the University opened its doors. Other senior academicians left in a quick succession. Lesley Mearns, Victoria's dean of business, resigned in January, and the vice-chancellor's wife, Nora O'Hara, who led a foundation programme at the university, left in December.

Edulink CEO in Nairobi is Simo Dubajic, a Serbian who came to Uganda as an employee of Ultimate Security. He appears to be a man fond of controversies. He differed with his employer over unknown reason and soon was in Court suing the company over unclear differences.

 Then, he set up Victoria University with Edulink International whose CEO is Misho Ravic, also a Serbian based in Dubai.  It is worth noting that Edulink international has been sold to a Dubai based Capital fund. It is not clear what effect, if any, this would have on other edulink branches in Kenya, Sri Lanka and Seychelles.

Simo bought a foot ball club in Uganda in August 2011. The club was renamed Sports Club Victoria University, with Simo as the Chairman. It quickly rose to the Uganda Big League, winning the play-off final 4-0 against Aurum Roses to gain promotion to the Uganda Premier League. It was promoted to Uganda super league in 2012. SCVU  finished fifth in the 2012-13 season and won its first major trophy; the Uganda Cup in 2013.

 In 2014 another controversy erupted between Simo Dubajic the Chairman of SCUV club and the Football federation of Uganda over a uniforms contract. The club was knocked out of the 2014 season by KCC and was later sold to a Uganda MP[PN5] , Ibrahim Nsereko.

Simo then came  to Kenya to set up British Education College, the predecessor of Edulink International College Ltd. The college was licensed by the Technical and Vocational Education and Training Authority (TVETA) to offer technical course in Multimedia and IT. Insiders say the course were not popular and the college may not have admitted more than 40 students per year.

In fact, say knowledgeable sources, ghost students were offered qualifying certificates. Later it was approved as an affiliate of the University of Northampton to offer Degree in Business awarded by the British University.

This is where parents have to wary. Sources indicate that, apart from the College Director, Gitonga M’bijjiwe, there are no qualified faculty members. ”The faculty comprises visiting lecturers who have got international exposure, industry professionals and accomplished academics from Kenya. This cosmopolitan mix and knowledge sharing gives students a feel of international learning,” said a self- advertising release recently.

The head of Business Studies and Foundation course, Rachel Butterfield boasts only of a Bachelor’s degree and although she claims to have a Master’s degree in her CV, No such certificate was seen in her file when this writer visited the college.

 Insiders say that the college is quite adept and employing and dismissing qualified personnel.  In the past year, the college has dismissed 18 staff including the former Campus Director and Academic Registra  without regard to employment contracts.  

Mr Dubajic admitted he fired the employees citing various reasons including incompetence and theft of University funds.

The sources say that three top academicians in Victoria were similarly humiliated and dismissed. Professor Martin O’Hara, the VC at Victoria University is said to have been dismissed without warning. He was simply dismissed and handed a return ticket to Britain, say sources. Staff have been fired in a similar fashion in Kenya.

 Documents seen by this writer show that senior staff at the college were dismissed without reasonable cause. Some were accused of stealing money from the college and forced to sign resignation or were dismissed. 

It is interesting to note that the college, despite the alleged confession by staff did not take legal action. Many of the dismissed staff accuse the CEO of being insolent and racist. A claim the CEO vehemently denies.

The documents show that the dismissed staff were paid one month in Lieu of Notice and their accumulated leave days regardless of whether the employees were on a fixed term contract. Foreigners were offered the equivalent of their return air fare home.