Private equity and lenders hop aboard $287m Kenya-Uganda railway

The International Finance Corporation ( and 6 leading international finance institutions provided $164 million in financing to Rift Valley Railways International ( to rehabilitate the Kenya-Uganda railway today (2 August). The aim is to boost cross-border trade and investment in East Africa. Other key shareholders are Kenya’s TransCentury, which listed on the Nairobi Stock Exchange on 14 July, and Uganda’s Bomi Holdings Ltd, reportedly owned by Charles Mbire. The financing is part of a $287m capital expenditure programme to improve the operating company’s infrastructure and rolling stock.
Other institutions participating in the package include: African Development Bank ($40m), Germany’s KfW Bankengruppe ($32m), Dutch Development Bank FMO ($20m), Kenya’s Equity Bank ($20m), Cordiant’s Infrastructure Crisis Fund ($20m) and the Belgian Investment Company for Developing Countries ($10m). The balance of the funding for the $287 million capital expenditure programme is being contributed by shareholders and generated through operations.
IFC is the largest financier to Rift Valley Railways and provides a $32m loan, of which $10m is already disbursed, and an additional $10m in equity to be committed. RVRI is a portfolio company of Citadel Capital, an Egypt-based private equity firm with $8.7 billion in investments across 14 countries in Africa.
The Kenya-Uganda railway line (apparently formerly nicknamed the “Lunatic Express”) has a track length of 2,350 kilometres with several branches extending from Mombasa, through Nairobi and right across key parts of Uganda. The rolling stock is 219 locomotives and 7,500 railroad cars. Brown Ondego, Group Chief Executive Officer of RVRI, said in a press release: “Our rehabilitation programme has already delivered impressive early results. Net “ton kilometres” were up 9% in the first half of 2011, compared with the same period last year, while turnaround times — a key measure of asset utilization — on the strategic Mombasa-Kampala route dropped 27% in the same period. Year-on-year, we have also seen a 30% drop in accidents per train kilometre.”
Karim Sadek, Managing Director at Citadel Capital, said: “This financing package is the backbone for an ambitious 5-year rehabilitation programme that will see Rift Valley Railways International make a quantum leap in operating standards as it addresses safety issues, completes due maintenance to improve reliability and hauling capacity, improves service to passengers, and captures long-term gains through investments in information technology.”
IFC has been key in encouraging private investment in the Kenya-Uganda railway since the consortium won the private management contract in 2005. After the project’s initial sponsor left, IFC led the restructuring of the shareholder group that resulted in the entry of new project sponsors and investors.
Jean Philippe Prosper, IFC Director for East Africa, said: “IFC has provided leadership and dedicated significant resources to encourage the turnaround of the Kenya-Uganda rail project. We are committed to the success of this railway as part of a broader effort to encourage private investment in infrastructure that promotes regional integration and social and economic development in Kenya, Uganda, and the surrounding region.”
Transport prices in East Africa are among the highest in the world, largely due to heavy reliance on trucking. A lack of operating capacity has resulted in rail capturing less than 10% of East Africa’s transport market. An efficient rail network has the capacity to reduce East African transport costs by as much as a third, since rail transport is more efficient to operate and in fuel.
IFC is a member of the World Bank Group and the largest global development institution focused exclusively on the private sector. In the fiscal year 2011, amid economic uncertainty across the globe, IFC said it boosted investments to an all-time high of nearly $19bn.


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