Business man, power broker and 2022 Presidential aspirant Jimi Wanjigi on Sunday, August 29 gave his most insightful interview yet – speaking to Citizen TV’s Linus Kaikai on everything from his first business, his constant interest in who becomes President and his plan to transform Kenya’s economy.
Wanjigi was a key figure in bringing together President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto to form the Jubilee coalition ahead of the 2013 General Election. In 2017, he switched camps to support Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) candidate Raila Odinga. Wanjigi plans to seek the ODM nomination to vie for the Presidency in 2022.
Questioned on where his relationship with Uhuru and Ruto broke down, Wanjigi stated that it was a matter of disagreement over policy. In particular, he cited the Jubilee government’s flagship project in their first term – the Chinese-built Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) – which runs from Nairobi to Mombasa and cost taxpayers over Ksh300 billion.
According to Wanjigi, he was central in conceptualizing the project as early as 2008 and engaged the Chinese Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) on the same. He explained that the SGR was supposed to run from Mombasa all the way to Malaba and was supposed to cost Ksh55 billion – around Ksh245 billion less than it ended up costing despite being shorter.
He hinted at inflation of the project by the duo after they took power in 2013.
Wanjigi further claimed that the SGR was designed to be a private rail service, and that the government was only expected to provide the land as part of the partnership.
“After 2013, the SGR became a project not worth Ksh. 55B between Mombasa & Malaba and became over Ksh. 330 B from Mombasa to Nairobi. The intention was not to take taxpayers money for the project,” he asserted.
The SGR has been racking up losses running into billions of shillings since its first full year of operation in 2018.
A report tabled to Parliament by the Transport Ministry in 2021 indicates that the railway recorded a loss of $200 million (Ksh21.9 billion) over three years.
At the same time, loan repayments to Exim Bank of China have only worsened the debt burden on taxpayers. In the Financial Year which started in July, SGR-related loan repayments will more than double to Sh96.70 billion, a 126.61 per cent surge from the previous financial year.
Exim Bank of China funded 90 per cent of the $3.6 billion 485-kilometre Mombasa-Nairobi SGR line.