In the next decade, the 2nd of January 2018 will be one of the dates history students across the country will have to memorize while preparing for their exams.
On what date was the first cargo freight train on the Standard Gauge Railway dispatched?
I expected the launch to be met with a lot of pomp and excitement (with exception of road transporters). The SGR freight services would be cheaper, safer and faster when compared to its counterparts. It would also reduce traffic snarl ups and lead to reduced accidents on our roads. According to the Kenya Ports Authority Head of Inland Container Depots, Simon Wahome, the freight services would, “revolutionize the transportation of cargo in Kenya.” I was a believer.
You know that proverb ignorance is bliss? Well… I experienced it first hand. The more I read on the freight services, the less of a believer I became. Mohamed Wehliye, the advisor to the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority and other proponents argued that the freight services were not as economical as had been made out.
They are of the view that the fact that most of the freight trains would travel back to Mombasa empty and the cost of transportation that would be incurred by cargo owners from the Nairobi Inland Container Depot to their industries would make the cumulative cost of the freight services equal to if not higher than the road freight services. So, what was the point?
I initially thought it would be easy for Kenya Railways to borrow from the taxi hailing apps and fill the cargo trains from Nairobi to Mombasa to optimize on logistics. A look at the import/export numbers paint a grim picture though. In the first 6-months of 2017, the Mombasa Port handled 15 million tones in import vs 1.9 million tones in export. We are simply not exporting enough for this to be viable.
In hindsight, it would have made more sense to ramp up our export capability before or as we built the Standard Gauge Railway.
As they say, hindsight is 20/20. Now that we have the SGR in place what can we do to ensure its optimal use? There are probably thousands of great answers to this question by industry players and ordinary citizens that we will never get to hear or explore. Or can we? What if the Transport Ministry were to challenge Kenyans to come up with ideas/solutions on how to maximize the use of the SGR freight services particularly the empty trains from Nairobi to Mombasa? Kenyans can then choose from the solutions that will be submitted.
Crowdsourcing is a type of participative online activity in which an individual or institution proposes to a group of individuals of varying knowledge, heterogeneity, and number, via a flexible open call.
Crowdsourcing has revolutionized the information age and brought to light some ideas/products that would have otherwise never seen the light of day. Governments have also embraced crowd sourcing as a way to engage locals and find local solutions to local problems.
In my opinion, crowdsourcing is an ideal tool for the central and county governments to get ideas and feedback from its constituents on how to solve the problems they are facing. Crowdsourcing would be the perfect way for our government to actively engage the citizenry and solve the problems they are facing