Mueni a great friend of mine from France recently took nearly one hour to drive the 28 kilometers from Voi to Sagalla. This was almost four times the time it takes to drive a similar distance, from Kangemi to Kahawa Sukari.
The main difference between these locations in Nairobi and Taita Taveta County can be summed up in two words – tarmac road. Almost the entire Voi – Sagalla road is not tarmacked, whereas the road linking Kangemi and Kahawa Sukari is tarmacked.
Imagine the loss of time and opportunities to the people of Sagalla whenever they travel to Voi. This is the same case everywhere we have bad roads. Indeed, good roads and therefore mobility contribute immensely to economic development and growth leading to unmatched social security.
Amidst this quest to step up our road network, I suggest that we be a fair-minded community as we commend the good work that the Government has done in expanding our roadway across Kenya. In the last nine years according to my friend CS Macharia, the Government has tangibly constructed more than 10,300km of new tarmac roads. This distance is the equivalent of 21 trips from Nairobi to Mombasa. Apart from connecting people, these roads have boosted local economies, availed employment to our youth, increased security, and provision of public services.
Among these roads is the Isiolo-Marsabit-Moyale highway. When it was completed in 2014, it revolutionized road transport not just in northern Kenya but also beyond Kenya. This Isiolo-Marsabit-Moyale highway is part of the Great North Road from Cape Town to Cairo.
Another stretch of this trans-African road is the Kisumu Road infrastructure project which was constructed between 2013 and 2016. It is part of a major international road artery that starts in Mombasa and connects Kenya to Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. This mammoth road covers more than 2000 kilometers and boosts trade between all these countries.
Closer home at the very heart of Kenya in Nairobi, construction of the 27.1 km-long Nairobi Expressway is roaring on. This road commences at Mlolongo and concludes at the James Gichuru Road junction. A staggering 30,000 vehicles ply the entirety of this stretch every day, resulting in never-ending traffic jams, loss of time and money.
The fact that this Expressway is Kenya’s first Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Road Project proves that it is possible to build our roads through innovative financing that is not dependent on Government. In the same innovative vein, this road project is empowering young engineers in an unprecedented fashion. It is giving real-life experience to third-year students of the University of Nairobi’s School of Civil Engineering. These young people are receiving priceless practical knowledge that will position them to perpetuate quality road construction in every corner of the country and the continent.
Currently, in sub-Saharan Africa, roads are responsible for ferrying 75 percent of people and goods. It’s no wonder roads are the veins through which the economy strides on. As such, when roads fall into disrepair or are simply non-existent, the economy slows down to a crawl. Unfortunately, 50 percent of roads in sub-Saharan Africa are yet to be constructed. We must therefore continue building roads that will not only link us to a brighter future, but also inject immense economic value to our present.
The World Bank sums it up well when it asserts that for rural communities in particular, a road is often an essential lifeline that links isolated villages to economic opportunities and services. Considering that seven out of ten Kenyans still live in rural areas, we must continue expanding the rural road network and ensuring that this expansion boosts the green economy. In our cities, the new bypasses continue to address traffic congestion, environmental pollution, road accidents and spur economic growth around our cities.
As we build these new roads, I suggest that we must ensure that contractors complete projects to the expected contractual obligation. Several of our existing roads lack maintenance and are in dire need of road furniture including markings, studs, and signage making them unsafe for users. Think green, act green.