President Uhuru Kenyatta is seemingly pegging his entire legacy in a single project before he is obliged to step down as Kenya’s Head of State in just over a year.
In his speech to the joint session of Parliament on April 16, 2013, Uhuru elaborated a nine-point plan seeking to realize the Jubilee Manifesto.
The plan involved pursuing honest and transparent governance, with public services that are open and accountable to the people; swiftly ending corruption; implementing devolution and the constitution in full; protecting civil rights and freedoms; ensuring peace for citizens; creating jobs; streamlining government; and extending basic services of water and electricity to all Kenyans.
Transport CS James Macharia inspecting the Nairobi Expressway on March 31, 2021
However, there is a visible change of tact with the Jubilee government ramping up the speed at which the various road projects across the country are being executed.
According to the 2013 manifesto, the tarmacking of 10,000 kilometres of road was high on the agenda and with 9,000kms covered to date (according to Trasport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia), the importance of delivering on this particular promise appears to be top of the President’s to-do-list.
“By the end of next year, we will have completed over 11,000 kilometres of tarmacked roads, which exceeds all the other regimes. We have done the same amount of kilometres as were done since the onset of the last Century,” CS Macharia buoyantly announced during a recent press briefing.
On his part, President Uhuru has been visiting various sites more frequently. On April 26, he inspected the expansion of the Kenol – Sagana – Marua road, a new four-lane dual carriageway that forms part of the Trans-Africa Highway.
Coupled with Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani’s recent allocation of an additional Ksh10 billion into the Transport Ministry and it paints a picture of a president looking to tarmac his legacy before the end of his tenure.
Some of the roads under construction include the Ksh65 billion double-decker road linking Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) to the Nairobi-Nakuru highway.
A section of the Nairobi Expressway along Mombasa Road
The other major road project is the Ksh160 billion toll highway from Nairobi to Mau Summit.
The 233-kilometre project contract is being undertaken by a French consortium made up of Vinci Highways SAS, Meridian Infrastructure Africa Fund, and Vinci Concessions SAS last year.
In a statement to the media, the Kenya Rural Roads Authority (KeRRA) revealed that road projects spread out across 43 counties are expected to be complete by 2022.
“The road projects are a clear indication the President is delivering his campaign promises. Roads are closely tied to economic development, because they spur economic growth by reducing the cost of transporting agricultural produce, stimulating the revival of industries, and creating jobs,” Mt Kenya Youth Caucus Chairman Linford Mutembei stated during the media briefing.
Despite the success stories brought about by President Uhuru’s multi-billion road projects across the country, controversy regarding some of the costs involved has risen.
As an example, a report (Highway Robbery: Budgeting for State Capture) by Africa Centre for Open Governance (AfriCOG), alleged that Kenyan taxpayers lost Ksh49 billion to unexplained cost escalation in road construction projects between 2013 and 2017.
According to the damning report, in four years (the financial year 2013/14 and 2016/2017,) the government constructed 930 kilometres of trunk roads at an average cost of Ksh80 million per kilometre.
It further detailed that this was Ksh16 million higher than the Ksh64 million per kilometre recommended by the construction cost index published by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics.
The report attributed this to intentional inflation of costs during the budgeting process.
Uhuru Vs Kibaki
According to the Road Inventory and Condition Survey (RICS), Kenya’s road network comprises about 17,600 kilometres of paved roads and 229,100 kilometres of unpaved or gravel roads.
Notably, a survey carried out by the Kenya Roads Board (KRB), documented the evolution of the country’s road network from 63,000km in 2003 to 161,000km in 2009, and then 246,700km in 2018.
When it comes to improved infrastructure, former President Mwai Kibaki comes to mind, with his investment in this particular sector endearing him to millions of Kenyans, a formula that President Uhuru seeks to employ before he leaves office.
President Kibaki nearly tripled the length of Kenya’s road network over his 10 years in office.
During his tenure, the road network ( both unpaved and paved roads) grew to 166,000 kilometres from just 63,000 kilometres back in 2003.
President Uhuru Kenyatta receives a sword as a symbol of authority from former president Mwai Kibaki during his inauguration at the Moi International Sports Center Kasarani in Nairobi on April 9, 2013