Kibaki’s legacy looms large in infrastructure

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Former President Mwai Kibaki commissions Lamu Port. On the right, the President of South Sudan, Silva Kiir. [File, Standard]

In the final days of President Mwai Kibaki’s term in office, a local pollster asked Kenyans what they would remember about him.

What came out on top was infrastructure development, followed by free primary education and the enactment of the 2010 Constitution.

During Kibaki’s decade as president, he increased the number of miles of roads and the amount of money the government spent on infrastructure. He also made huge investments in railways and ports.

Between 2003 and 2013, Kenya increased its classified road network from 63,000 km in 2003 to 166,000 km.

When Kibaki took power in 2003, Kenya was investing 10 billion shillings a year in building and maintaining roads.

However, this had risen to 117 billion shillings in 2012 when he left office.

It was under his administration that the 50 kilometer Thika Road (Thika Super Highway) was built at a cost of 32 billion shillings in 2011, which was then considered a huge investment for an industry that had gone through years of underinvestment.

It was his regime that conceptualized the bypass roads, which make a ring around Nairobi, making it easier for city dwellers moving from one end to the other as well as travelers crossing the city without having to cross the central district. Business.

The Southern Bypass is perhaps memorable as its implementation began when Presidential aspirant Mr. Raila Odinga was Minister of Roads where he had to tear down a number of lavish houses that were on reserves roads.

“When this road is completed, vehicles destined for western parts of Kenya or the coast will have an alternative route away from the CBD,” Kibaki explained the road’s rationale when construction began in 2012.

A section of the Thika Highway. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

The brilliance of the ring roads would be spoiled by the southern bypass which devours Nairobi National Park, while the eastern bypass was built as a two-way road on a budget that many thought it could have built a double car. The road is currently being split.

Away from eye-catching roads such as the Bypass and Thika Road, Kibaki has extended others into rural areas of Kenya, connecting small isolated towns and commercial centers to other towns and allowing residents to access essential elements such as health centers and markets.

Its interest in rural roads is seen in the fact that although the length of the roads increased by more than 100,000 km between 2003 and 2013, the paved roads were 2,300 km during the period, which means that the most of it was unpaved rural roads.

This illustrates his administration’s focus on boosting the country’s connectivity through a network of new roads in rural areas, many of which are basic dirt and gravel roads.

It was also under Kibaki that the Roads 2000 program was launched through which thousands of kilometers of roads were repaired and road agencies mainly hired local labour, benefiting many unemployed young Kenyans.

“There has been continuous development of rural roads under the R2000 program which involves gravelling road surfaces using low volume sealed road technology with cobblestones,” said the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics. in the 2021 economic survey.

“The program includes a model contract that includes a maintenance component in road construction contracts that guarantee the upkeep and sustenance of drivable road surfaces.”

Apart from roads, the Kibaki regime had also embarked on reviving the Nairobi Commuter Railway as it sought an elusive solution that would ease congestion on the city’s roads.

In November 2012, as his presidency approached its final days, Kibaki launched Syokimau Railway Station, which is a key hub for Nairobi commuter rail, taking passengers coming to the CBD via Imara Daima and Makadara on Jogoo Road.

In 2012, Kibaki paved the way for a number of infrastructure megaprojects, the implementation of which was taken over by the Jubilee administration of President Uhuru Kenyatta.

These included the second container terminal at the Port of Mombasa.

Tractors at the second container terminal in the Port of Mombasa. [Omondi Onyango, Standard]

The terminal was designed at a time when importers were complaining about delays at the port and many, especially those importing to neighboring countries, opted to use the Tanzanian port of Dar es Salaam.

The first phase of the second terminal, which was built at a cost of 26 billion shillings, was completed in 2016.

The Kenya Ports Authority is set to complete the 32 billion shillings second container terminal, which was funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency, with construction being undertaken by Japanese company Toyo Construction.

Kibaki also paved the way for Konza Technopolis. The tech city was expected to be a regional center of innovation, but it has not evolved at the speed anticipated when it was created.

The former president’s regime also launched the Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia (Lapsset) Transport Corridor project. The project was then considered and is still considered as a catalyst for the economic improvement of northern Kenya.

While there had been discussions on the corridor, momentum began to gather momentum in 2010 and in March 2012, Kibaki and South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and then Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi jointly launched the project.

The corridor includes roads, railways and petroleum product pipelines that wind from Lamu through northern Kenya to the two neighboring countries of Kenya in the north.

One of the facilities in the corridor will be a crude oil pipeline that will enable Kenya to export oil that will be produced from the Turkana oilfields.

Lamu Port’s first pier was commissioned last year.

Economists argue that infrastructure investment is a key catalyst for economic growth. According to the World Bank, infrastructure has contributed 0.5% to annual per capita growth over the past decade.

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