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Kenya, A Country Poised For Economic Jump

By Samwel Kumba & Stephen Ataro

Available studies indicate that infrastructure provides the base upon which economic growth is built. Roads, mass transportation, airports, water systems, and utilities are all examples of infrastructure.

Infrastructure development comes with supporting services that help the growth of directly productive activities like agriculture and industry. The supporting services include health, education, power, and water for both domestic use and irrigation.

Existing studies on the association between infrastructure and a country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth indicate that one (1) per cent growth in the infrastructure stock is associated with one (1) per cent growth in per capita GDP. And infrastructure has been found to have a two-way relationship with economic growth. One, infrastructure promotes economic growth, and two economic growth brings about changes in infrastructure.

Kenya is in the middle of what may be considered the most robust infrastructural evolution of a country. Indeed, Kenyans, today, have a front seat in witnessing this advancement in a country that is considered one of the fastest growing economies in Sub-Saharan Africa.

In tandem is the growth of Kenya’s economy, which is attributed to this robust investment drive into infrastructural projects. The Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) has been in the thick of things.

Guided by her mandate of development, rehabilitation, management, and maintenance of all national trunk roads, KeNHA is keen to ensure the country has adequate national trunk roads to compliment the development agenda of the government.

The Authority is currently developing key projects meant to open various corridors to the continent. One of these is the South Sudan Link Road.

This road, which is part of the East Africa Regional Transport, Trade, and Development Facilitation Project, is a grand achievement birthed by a partnership between the Government of Kenya and the World Bank.

Today the Northern part of the country is beaming with freshness from a road that has sent tongues wagging from both the local and the international community. People who enjoy road trips have found the South Sudan Link Road at the top of their priority list of the ‘to go to’ places.

Kenya National Highways Authority (KENHA)
Mwache Bridge along Dongo Kundu Bypass

The road, majorly, cuts through Turkana County serving the fresh image of a dark tarmac slicing through the arid plains of the County, carrying with it hope for a better future for the people of Turkana and Kenya as a whole.

Motorists are often treated to a unique workmanship on this road, especially at the Kainuk Bridge. The new bridge, which towers over the old bridge – right next to it – was a much-needed intervention at a section of the road that rendered the County of Turkana and the Northern part of Kenya inaccessible for a long time.

One would not have to dig far into the archives to uncover the horror that this bridge section was to the region. Had there been no intervention on this section of the road, the South Sudan Link Road project, which begins in Lokichar and ends in Nakodok, would have been in vain.

In Lokichar town, there is evidence of a revived North. There now exists many matatus ferrying people to Lodwar, Kakuma and back. Looked at with the hindsight of the recent past, this is almost a miracle to behold. Prior to the road works, these areas have been riddled with bandits, in the past, who took advantage of the poor road condition to terrorise people.

The Turkana County Commissioner, Muthama Wambua, concedes that previously, there was an average of two vehicles attacked in a day. Today, he says, for more than a year, there has not been a single attack.

People who have not been to Lodwar town are often advised to brace themselves for a pleasant experience once they are set to visit. Right at the edge of the town as one drives in, there is Turkana University. Perhaps, this already provides a symbol of hope for a solid future.

On the horizon are pointy hills piercing into the sky ushering in the aeroplanes landing in Lodwar airport. In short, a visit to Lodwar is a big deal! A drive from Lodwar to Lokitaung’ is a flawless treat to the expansive plains of Turkana. The dry plains may be deceptive, and this is indicated by the numerous bridge structures which facilitate the heavy drainage need in the region.

Out of the initial two major bridge structures that were along this road, a total of 33 major bridges will now be installed along the road. However, if Lodwar town surprises you, Kakuma will then knock you flat on your back.

Kakuma is a vibrant town exhibiting all the signs of evolving into a city. Retailers and wholesalers sprawl all over the town with trucks ferrying goods all telling of the economic potential that is in Kakuma.

These developments may seem ordinary elsewhere but they are truly a miracle for a region that was almost inaccessible less than ten years ago.

If Kenya and the larger East African region were to be a body, Mombasa would be both figuratively and quite literally the heart of the region.

Still holding onto this analogy, the past ten (10) years would be a period of ‘cardiovascular enhancements’ with major and minor surgeries designed to make this heart of the region stronger and capable of supporting the fast-growing economy of Kenya and the larger East African region.

As the host to the largest port and the preferred gateway to the East and Central African region, Mombasa County has, in the last decade, been undergoing a serious infrastructural facelift.

First there is the Makupa Bridge Project, which is historic because its construction reinstated Mombasa to one of the internationally recognized islands.

Initially, the Causeway, which was built by the British colonial administration, separated the waters that surround Mombasa Island into Tudor Creek to the east and Port Reitz Creek to the west. This hindered free movement of water and marine life, hence decaying the ecosystem.

The Causeway, which was built in 1929 was one of the links between Mombasa Island and the mainland. Traffic volumes had grown significantly beyond the design capacity of the Causeway.

This led to a major bottleneck in the entry and exit from the Island. To address the problem, my Administration planned for the demolition of the Causeway and replace it with a bridge.

Makupa Bridge is a four (4) billion Kenya shillings worth of investment stretching 457metre that took taken 17 months to be completed. The design comprises two four-lane parallel bridges with a width of 20 metres each, an extra two-metre rail for non-motorized traffic and a pedestrian footpath.

The Bridge was been built to serve as the main road transport link between Mombasa Island and the Kenyan hinterland. The other objective of this Bridge included to promote trade and regional integration.

This would contribute hugely in the movements of goods from the island to the mainland, which will in return make Mombasa the most favourable destination for imports for the other East African countries.

Then there is the Dongo Kundu Bypass, Airport Access Road, Magongo Road are a portion of works that the County of Mombasa has benefited from. The most recent interventions, however, has been the Likoni Floating Bridge.

The Dongo Kundu Bypass, also known as the Mombasa Port Area Road Development Project (MPARD), has been a much-needed intervention for Mombasa. The project which is predominantly located in Mombasa with sections traversing Kwale and Kilifi counties is a modern infrastructure masterpiece with provisions to integrate seamlessly with the port of Mombasa, Moi International Airport, and the Standard Gauge Railway terminus in Mombasa.

Package One of the project, which is the Miritini – Mwache – Kipevu Link Road, has already in part achieved the set goals. Similarly, Package Two, which runs from Mwache interchange to Mwangala and Package Three, which starts from Mwangala all the way to Kibundani junction which is along the Mombasa – Lungalunga highway, are timely on course.

It is crucial to note that Package Two, which is currently at 29 per cent overall physical progress has two bridge sections: Mwache Bridge (Measuring 660M) and Mteza Bridge (Measuring 1440M).

Once complete, motorists will not have to go through Mombasa Town or use the Ferry services to go to South Coast. This road, therefore, will play a significant role in easing traffic congestion in Mombasa Town and boost economic growth in the South Coast region.

The Eastern Region is also a beneficiary of a mega road project, the Kitui – Kibwezi Road. The absence of this road, for many years, has been a barrier to the rich industrial and mining potential that is within the region and the surrounding environs. A road is, indeed, an instrument of national integration and evidence of hope of great benefits in the areas traversed once constructed.

Through this road, a small business owner can transport goods from Mombasa-Kibwezi-Ikanga direct covering a shorter distance of 393KMs without going through the previous route of Mombasa-Nairobi-Thika-Kitui-Ikanga covering a total distance of nearly 706KMs.

A matatu driver can ferry travellers from Migwani to Kibwezi without worrying about weather or the vehicle breaking down. These are just a few of the many stories that are already being written following the completion of this project.

The government is also gearing up to commence works on the Horn of Africa Gateway Development Project (HoAGDP).

The HoAGDP is part of the plan to upgrade the 740KM Isiolo – Mandera Road corridor, which is the remaining unpaved section of the Nairobi – Isiolo – Madera Road. Further, The HoAGDP, which covers about 750KM of road will also finance the laying of a fibre optic cable along the entire corridor to spur growth among the local communities.

According to the World Bank Lead Transport Specialist and Task Team Leader, Josphat Sasia, ‘the potential of North Eastern Kenya as a transit and regional trade facilitation zone is presently not fully exploited’.

Listen to him: “This transformative project will integrate the region and enhance security, inclusion, and a sense of equity, which the communities living in this underserved region of Kenya have desired for a long time.”

To realize the government Big Four Agenda, infrastructure development has been placed at the centre as a key enabler. The cost of infrastructure development, however, is always a concern and to this end, KeNHA has been engaging with her stakeholders to explore sustainable means of developing, rehabilitating, and maintaining national trunk roads.

Kenya National Highways Authority (KENHA)
Makupa Bridge (A8) Road

In this regard, the Nairobi Expressway and the upcoming dualing of the Nairobi – Nakuru – Mau Summit road are evidence of Kenya’s commitment to explore different ways of sustaining infrastructure development through a Public-Private Partnerships approach.

The projects, which have been initiated through a PPP framework ushers Kenya into a more global and collaborative era of project implementation.

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