Kenya: Raila Odinga Outlines His Role as Africa Union's Special Envoy

President Uhuru Kenyatta (centre), Deputy President William Ruto (left) and opposition leader Raila Odinga after Ruto hosted them for lunch at his Karen residence in Nairobi County on November 2.
24 October 2018

Opposition leader Raila Odinga has highlighted things he wants to accomplish as Africa Union's special envoy on infrastructure development.

Mr Odinga said he is planning to ensure that Trans-African Highway project that was launched in 1971 is completed.

The Trans-African project is a network of nine highways which, when connected, will cover a combined total of 60,000 kilometers across the continent.

"One of them will stretch 8,000 kilometers between Cairo (Egypt) and Dakar (Senegal); another for 8,000 kilometers between Cairo and Cape Town; a third for 6,000 kilometers between Lagos and Mombasa; and a fourth for 4,700 kilometers between Dakar and Lagos (Nigeria)," said Mr Odinga.


Only one of nine highways has been completed so far, according to Mr Odinga

"That is the Trans-Sahelian Highway, which runs 4,500 kilometers between Dakar in Senegal and N'Djamena in Chad. Although the others are only partially finished, countries are progressively opening them section-by-section. It is just one example of what we plan to complete," he said in his address at Duke University in the US

"I strongly believe that the existence of a reliable infrastructure of roads and railways, running North to South, East to West of Africa, is critical to opening up the Continent and making it the gateway to the 21st century," he added.

The ODM leader said he will make use of his new position to push Africa to economic independence.

"I accepted the appointment as AU's High Representative for Infrastructure Development Championing to spearhead the modernisation and upgrading of selected Trans African Highway Corridors and their missing links," he said.

Mr Odinga said insufficient infrastructure networks across the continent have limited cross-border flows of trade, capital, information, and people.

This, he said, has drastically affected Africa's growth and broader development performance and regional integration.

"Improving land transportation is an imperative to development. One of my main tasks will be to garner political buy in and ownership of member states as well as ownership of regional economic communities," he said.


Mr Odinga acknowledged that Africa has made some stride towards infrastructural development..

"One of those steps is a modern rail line between Ethiopia and Djibouti that has recently been opened," he said.

"Another big project is the East African Rail Master Plan. This is a proposal to rejuvenate lines among Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan and Ethiopia. It is estimated to cost $13.8 billion," he added.

Mr Odinga's appointment has sparked debate in the political arena as Deputy President William Ruto's allies ask him to quit local politics and focus on his new job.

But Siaya Senator James Orengo has maintained that his party leader appointment in the AU would not interfere in any way with his present position in local politics.

Mr Orengo argues that the new job will enhance the ODM party leader's efforts in trying to bring peace and rule of law in the continent.

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