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Three cheers! Business Daily story on Chinese hogging roads jobs informative

Chinese contractors win majority of World Bank-funded road projects in Kenya, the Business Daily reported February 15.

This story stood out for its unique, informative reporting. Titled, “Word Bank hands Chinese contractors Sh71bn road projects,” the story by Otiato Guyuyu answered all the important questions, implied or otherwise, for the reader.

Which are these roads? Which are the Chinese companies? Why only Chinese firms? Doesn’t Kenya have local contractors with the capacity to do these roads? Did any other contractors apply? What criteria did the World Bank use to award the contracts to mostly Chinese companies?

The story did not disappoint. It started out by listing the current road projects, succinctly identifying their location, a sample of their price tags and the companies building them.

In Nairobi County, James Gichuru Road/Waiyaki Way Jn to Rironi will cost Sh16.3 billion. China Wu Yi is building it. In Turkana County, Nakodok/Nadapal-Kalobeyei and Lodwar–Loichangamatak sections are being upgraded by China Railway No.5 Engineering Group.  Kisumu Boys–Mamboleo is being turned into a dual carriageway by China Railway No.10 Engineering Group, etcetera.

For a bigger picture, the story provided a table contrasting nationalities that generally build the most Kenyan roads and their overall value. Projects under China account for Sh273 billion. Japan, Sh24 billion. Japan and China jointly, Sh4 billion. And Kenya, Sh20 billion.

What’s the winning criteria? The story found that projects funded by the World Bank are assessed against “value for money, economy, integrity, fit for purpose, efficiency, transparency and fairness.” Apparently, Chinese contractors mostly check all the boxes.

On the other hand, what do you make of this quote from the World Bank: “These regulations… are designed to ensure the Bank financing is used for intended purposes with due attention to considerations of economy and efficiency and without regard to political or other non-economic influences or considerations”?

Of course, it reeks of Public Relations! But providing it tells the reader that the reporter was bothered enough to prod.

Moreover, evidence that the World Bank was contacted for the story is a refreshing departure from many stories that are written from lazy press statements and dry reports, and lack verification.

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