The Presidents of Kenya, Mwai Kibaki, and the African Development Bank, Donald Kaberuka, have launched today "the most ambitious infrastructure project in Kenya's history": the Nairobi-Thika superhighway. This eight-lane ultra-modern superhighway stretching from the city of Nairobi all the way to the outskirts of Thika town some 50 kilometres away will deeply change the lives of millions of people.
"The Nairobi-Thika superhighway is source of a national pride," said Kenyan President, Mwai Kibaki. "It is the first modern highway infrastructure in Kenya's history, contributing to achieve the country's goal of reaching middle-income status by 2030." President Kibaki commended the AfDB for its unwavering support in the project, providing a paradigm shift to the country's road infrastructure network.
Speaking at the launch, AfDB President Donald Kaberuka said that this ultramodern superhighway will strongly contribute to the achievement of inclusive growth in the region by reducing the cost of doing business in Kenya. "This road plays a critical role at several levels. It is first an important commercial and transport corridor. It is also part of the Great North Trans-African Highway (Cape Town to Cairo)," said Kaberuka.
Kaberuka reaffirmed the AfDB's strong commitment to infrastructure development on the continent. "Infrastructure promotes trade and creates a conducive environment for business," he added. Three years down the line since the upgrades began, the new road has started yielding impressive and visible results. Commuters are already enjoying faster, more reliable, comfortable and more affordable journeys. The time taken to traverse Thika town and Nairobi has dropped from two to three hours to 30-45 minutes.
Consequently, pollution resulting from vehicle emissions has considerably fallen. The project cost, totalling approximately US $360 million, has been financed by the African Development Bank to the tune of US $180 million; the Government of Kenya contributed US $80 million; and the Exim Bank of China financed US $100 million worth of upgrades.
The initial highway was constructed to bitumen standard in the early 1970s. This section was operating beyond capacity, carrying more than 60,000 vehicles per day. In addition, its condition had deteriorated and required serious rehabilitation. In order to accommodate rising traffic needs, the government sought the AfDB's assistance to finance the construction of additional lanes and the removal of at-grade intersections at several locations to be replaced by interchanges.
The Nairobi Metropolitan Area is the most dynamic engine of growth and employment creation in Kenya, accounting for more than 30 per cent of the National GDP. However, as a result of rapid urbanization coupled with the explosive growth in motorization, the transportation system had become inadequate and was constraining economic growth and limiting access to job opportunities, education, and recreation.
Beneficiaries of the highway are predominantly people living along the route engaged in various economic activities. More importantly, it serves commuters who travel daily to work in secondary and tertiary sectors within Nairobi city's Central Business District (CBD). Some 100,000 people residing in Kasarani, Kiambu and Thika work in the formal sector, while another 125,000 are in the informal sector - a majority of whom have to commute to Nairobi.
Other distinct groups of commuters are students, health patients, shoppers and traders (formal and informal). With a secondary school enrolment rate of over 60 per cent, at least 12,000 students benefit from the road. In addition, two public universities are established along the road, Kenyatta University and Jomo Kenyatta University of Agricultural Technology (JKUAT). Between these two universities are approximately 12,000 students who attend part-time programs (49 per cent of whom are women) and who will greatly benefit from an efficient transportation system.
Transport operators especially passenger vehicles, trucks transporting light and heavy goods (domestic and regional to Ethiopia and Somalia), and non-motorized road users are among other beneficiaries of the project. Also included are horticultural and dairy farmers along the road who require an efficient and reliable transportation system. Other users include local administrations, and social service providers (NGO/CBOs) working in the districts of Murang'a, Maragwa, Kirinyaga, Embu, Meru and Nyeri.
The AfDB approved the project in November 2007 and works started in January 2009. The AfDB Group commenced operations in Kenya in 1967. It has invested almost US $3 billion mostly on concessionary terms in some 82 operations in almost all sectors of the economy, with 60 per cent in infrastructure (transport, energy, water and sanitation).