Return of maritime Silk Road does not forget Africa

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When ancient Chinese navigator Zheng He set out at the head of a large trade envoy along the first maritime trade routes during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), he made first contact with the coastal city that would eventually become the Kenyan city of Mombasa.

More than 600 years after Zheng laid the blueprint for the modern Maritime Silk Road (MSR), trade between China and Kenya continues to expand.

China is currently constructing a standard gauge rail line that will better regional connectivity and build upon Zheng's footprint further by linking Mombasa to Kenya's capital Nairobi.

Construction is ahead of schedule and will be completed in 3 years, according to Zhang Baozhong, deputy general manager of the overseas department of China Communications Construction Company Limited, whose subsidiary corporation is in charge of the project.

He made the statement during the ongoing international seminar on the modern MSR in Quanzhou City of southeast China's Fujian Province.

The new rail line will offer 30,000 jobs for residents in Kenya and the rail link will be crucial in connecting Nairobi to the maritime trade route, Zhang said.

It will eventually link Nairobi with the capitals of Uganda, Burundi, and South Sudan. Once it is completed, the rail corridor will help connect the vast hinterland of East Africa with the Indian Ocean, he said.

As China presented the idea of reviving the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road in 2013, this continental initiative is expanding beyond Asia to Africa.

In addition to Mombasa, China is also funding and developing other ports in African countries including Djibouti, Tanzania and Nigeria.

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