Egyptian private-equity company Qalaa Holdings is investing US$70 million to accelerate the movement of rail cargo carried from East Africa's busiest port, as it faces competition from a new Chinese-backed link. Qalaa controls Rift Valley Railways, the operator of a railway running from Kenya's Mombasa to neighbouring Uganda. It covers a portion of the same route as a new rail line under construction from Mombasa. Qalaa "is investing heavily in a new subsidiary, which will complement RVR by handling cargo at the port of Mombasa in Kenya", said Karim Sadek, managing director of the company's transport division. Qalaa bought Kenyan-based Transcentury's Safari Rail's 34 per cent stake in RVR, raising its shareholding to 85 per cent. RVR said in September it agreed to borrow US$20 million from Standard Bank and other lenders to buy 20 locomotives. Currently, more than 90 per cent of cargo is ferried by road from Mombasa. "Kenya remains the pivot state in East Africa and the route to the sea and the world markets for a lot of countries in East Africa," said Aly-Khan Satchu, chief executive of Nairobi-based Rich Management. An estimated 23.5 million tonnes of freight was expected to pass through the Mombasa port last year, according to the Kenya Ports Authority. Qalaa's planned spending on RVR comes as construction gets under way on a US$3.8 billion railway linking Mombasa to Kenya's capital, Nairobi, being 90 per cent financed by the Export-Import Bank of China. It is expected to take 42 months from October to complete, and will eventually continue to Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan.