Isiolo — President Mwai Kibaki officially commissioned the construction of the Isiolo International Airport and reaffirmed his government's commitment to upgrading and modernising the country's infrastructure.
Speaking during the groundbreaking ceremony that marked the upgrading of Isiolo airstrip into a fully-fledged international airport, President Kibaki said the facility will promote the socio-economic development of the region once completed.
"It will facilitate fast and efficient movement of people, goods and services and thus open up the region to investment opportunities."
The president said livestock farming, tourism and agriculture in the region will benefit from the upgraded airport, adding that it will make it easy to export livestock products to key markets in Asia and the Middle East.
He urged the Ministry of Livestock Development to partner with the local communities to increase livestock production.
The president also encouraged domestic and foreign investors to set up slaughter-houses, storage and processing plants to facilitate the value addition of livestock products.
On tourism, the president said the region's tourist attractions such as national parks and reserves with rare and captivating flora and fauna, museums, rivers, lakes, mountains and conservation ranches need be effectively marketed for Isiolo to receive its rightful share of thousands of visitors and become a major tourist hub.
"This will increase our earnings from tourism as well as provide numerous employment opportunities for our people and especially the youth," the president said.
President Kibaki decried widespread poaching in the region and ordered the relevant departments to take the necessary action to end the menace.
The president regretted that last year alone, poachers killed 375 elephants and 20 rhinos, a trend that cannot be tolerated.
President Kibaki reiterated that upgrading of the Isiolo airstrip into an international airport is a timely initiative as Kenya moves towards devolution under the county governments.
He pointed out that as counties become epicentres of development and administration, they will require a proper network of infrastructure served by all-weather roads, extensive railway networks and airports linking them up to different parts of the country.
The president emphasised that Kenya's economic blueprint, Vision 2030, recognized infrastructure as a catalyst, key enabler and foundation for economic development.
"If the country is to transform into a middle income, newly industrialized economy, we need a functional infrastructure in the form of a robust transport and communication network," the Head of State said.
In addition, President Kibaki said the Isiolo International Airport will also facilitate transport within the Horn of Africa region due to its strategic location.
Said President Kibaki: "The Horn of Africa region has huge untapped trade and investment potential that require projects such as this one to unlock."
The Head of State noted that the airport will enable farmers and traders in the region access international markets without having to transport their goods all the way to and from Nairobi or Eldoret as is the case currently.
President Kibaki said the Isiolo International Airport is also a key part of LAPSETT, an economic and transport corridor that stretches from Lamu port to Sudan and Ethiopia.
The president pointed out that the airport complements the other infrastructure projects that the Government is carrying out in the region such as the construction of the road from Isiolo to Moyale which is part of the Trans-Africa highway.
He called on the contractors and all those involved in the project to maintain high professional standards in the construction of the airport and adhere to the timelines set for its completion.
He thanked development partners for their support in infrastructure upgrading programmes across the country.
On education, the Head of State called upon parents to take their children to school to benefit from the Free Primary Education program and the subsidized secondary education offered by the Government.
He, at the same time, advised against excessive drinking, saying Kenyans need to spend their time in activities that would improve on their lives.
The President donated a bus to Merti Girls Secondary School.
Speaking during the occasion, Transport Minister Amos Kimunya urged developers adjacent to the airport to construct buildings according to the town plans.
Other speakers including Cabinet Ministers Kiraitu Murungi and Mohamed Kuti appreciated the massive development undertaken in the country during President Kibaki's 10 year tenure.