"I can now close my business late and reach home in good time to help my kids with their homework." - Norah, pharmacy owner
People living along the Nairobi-Thika Highway are breathing a sigh of relief following the completion of the new highway's construction. Businesses are thriving and road-users are reaping the benefits of the ultra-modern superhighway.
The Nairobi-Thika superhighway is part of international trunk road connecting Nairobi city with Ethiopia to the north and is located in Nairobi and the Central Provinces of Kenya. It starts on Uhuru Highway in Nairobi at three points - namely Haile Selassie Avenue, University Way and Museum Hill Interchange - and converges at Pangani.
The highway then proceeds to Thika via Muthaiga, GSU, Kasarani, Githurai Interchange, Kenyatta University, Ruiru Town, Juja Town and ends at the bridge near Blue Post Hotel. The total project length is 45 km. The road is also an important link to the Great North Trans-African Highway (Cape Town to Cairo) one of the top priorities in the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) short-term action plan.
In a recent visit along the busy highway, the African Development Bank heard from some of the beneficiaries of the project.
"I buy my stock cheaper." - Jane, fruit seller
For 23-year-old Jane Njeri, the grand opening of the Thika Superhighway is a new beginning. Jane, a fruit seller in one of the major interchanges, is one among the growing list of Kenyans whose businesses have improved following the completion of the 45-km ultra-modern super highway.
"I am able to buy my stock cheaply from Githurai Market because of the ease of connection. While I used to pay Sh 30 as fare to Githurai, I now pay only Sh 10," said the mother of two.
A rise in the volume of human traffic brought about by the superhighway has boosted Jane's fruit business. She now takes home an estimated Sh 2,000 per day on a typical day when business is good.
"Expansion of this road has made connections to and from Nairobi faster and cheaper than in the past and this is good for business," she said.
I now can have dinner with my kids! - Norah, chemist
Her sentiments are shared by Norah Gesare, who runs a drug store together with her husband in Kasarani.
"I have been able to expand my business to include mobile cash transfer services, selling of airtime besides running the drugstore. This is because of a considerable increase in traffic. I am also able to close the business late and reach home in good time to help my kids with their homework," said Gesare, 30.
The mother of four says when she is out of stock it only takes her between 20 and 30 minutes to restock her pharmacy due to the ease of movement along the highway to and from Nairobi.
Her only concern is that the superhighway has dislocated many hawkers, who used to ply their trade at the Kasarani Interchange, something she says could increase crime rates.
Commute reduced from two hours to 30 minutes! - Njoki, resident of Kasarani
"While it took about two hours from Mwiki to Nairobi and a fare of Sh 100, it now takes only 30 minutes at most at almost a third of the fare," said Njoki Wairimu, a resident of Kasarani.
The huge traffic snarl-ups that used to occur along the Nairobi-Thika road are no more, freeing up time and saving on costly fuel consumption.
"I was losing clients because of the traffic." - James, motor dealer
The Nairobi-Thika superhighway has attracted a long list of businesses from big-box supermarkets, car dealers, hotels and real estate developers.
"Traffic movement on this road used to be crazy. But now the superhighway has opened up areas like Kiambu and beyond Thika. We are now receiving an average of 20 to 30 clients walking through our doors on a good day, either to make queries of make a purchase," said James Mwangi Muturi, Managing Director, A-Plus Motors Limited.
Compared to the traffic flow along Mombasa road, Waiyaki Way, Ngong or Jogoo road, Nairobi-Thika road has a comparative advantage given its size and number of lanes, enabling easier and faster movement of traffic. "Previously, clients were put off by the traffic on this road when we told them that we are located along Thika road. But all that has changed now," said Mwangi.
Already, a huge shopping complex is being constructed a few metres away from the Safari Park Hotel. Another shopping mall is being built not far along the superhighway, setting the stage for an intense battle for shoppers.
"We plan to expand the business in the near future with a possibility of running a 24-hour operation, to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the superhighway. In the end, we intend to become a one-stop-shop for all motor vehicle accessories and makes," he said.
"We could miss lecturers when stuck in the traffic." - Emily, student
"We could miss lecturers when stuck in the traffic. But now the situation has changed. Some students are even able to live outside campus and still commute comfortably to attend lecturers," said Emily Kimathi Mukiri, a 21-year-old third-year Bachelor of Education student at Kenyatta University.
In the past, traffic road accidents along the busy highway have been a common feature.
But the upgrading of the highway is expected to provide adequate capacity and considerably decrease the accident rate by minimizing vehicle conflicts with traffic interchanges and by providing separate service roads for local and non-motorized traffic.
The Thika superhighway is expected to contribute to improvement in accessibility, affordability and reliability of the transport infrastructure system to promote economic growth and socio-economic development in Kenya. It will also contribute to regional integration in the Eastern and Horn of Africa regions.
The Nairobi-Thika Highway Project cost approximately US $360 million and was approved in November 2007. The African Development Bank (AfDB) Group financed the project with a financial package through its concessional window, the African Development Fund, including a loan of approximately US $175 million (civil works and related consultancy services) and a grant worth US $5 million (feasibility study and a detailed design of a mass rapid-transit system for the Nairobi Metropolitan area). The Kenyan Government contributed US $80 million. EximBank of China contributed the remaining US $100 million. Works started in 2009 and finished in 2012.