Following the proposal of the construction of the Sh300 billion Nairobi-Mombasa expressway, the US has promised to award 70% of jobs to Kenyans. This is music to Kenyan’s ears considering most locals had in the past years complained about the Chinese projects being undertaken by mostly foreigners. US Ambassador to Kenya Kyle McCarter termed the project a ‘model for future projects’. He said the project will be different from projects financed by Chinese loans as it is economic viable and one that will have nil debts. This was during his first formal public address since his appointment. “The Trump administration is not riding on what China is doing or not doing, we are working as partners and we have an economically viable projects that will create jobs in Kenya and open the country’s economy further,” McCarter said.

The Nairobi-Mombasa expressway project was awarded to American contractors Bechtel International. It is expected to cost Ksh230 Billion. Bechtel intends to employ about 4,000 people and provide training and capacity building. The six-lane road 473 kilometre stretch will be financed through a Private Public Partnership.  McCarter said the project will create jobs and will involve local businesses in supplying building materials. The Trump administration projects the six-lane expressway to be a third the cost of other road projects in Kenya. Earlier estimates by the Kenya National Highways Authority indicate the road would cost Sh300 billion.

McCarter said toll fees and not taxpayers’ money will be used in the repayment plan which will be spread to 20 years. “Those who will be using the road will pay the cash.  This will not burden a farmer in the village nor should they fear the burden of heavy taxes to repay the loan…. and if you ask me this is the best deal for the country,” McCater said.

This comes as the country is under pressure to cut increasing public debt that is now threatening to cross the Sh5 trillion mark. “This is not just a matter of writing cheques or giving big loans but strengthening relations… What has been put on the table is good for Kenya and will go a long way in,” he said. The Kenyan government and the Trump administration are next week set to sign a deal that will facilitate construction of the highway.The deal will be part of a series of bilateral strategic talks beginning on May 7 in Washington DC.

The blueprint of the project shows the road will bypass the city to branch off past Konza and terminate onto the Nakuru highway in Kikuyu. Earlier reports  indicated it will cut through Ongata Rongai to join Nairobi-Nakuru highway in Kikuyu town. Cost will be a third of what the country has spent in construction of other roads and 70 per cent of the work force will be Kenyan.” The road will have six lanes with provisions for future expansion and will become a toll road and provide faster transit to support growth and industry. The 473 km express highway will allow uninterrupted speeds of 120 km/h, cutting travel time from 10 to four hours.  This is a completely new road away that will take up a lot of money because farmers whose land will be used will be compensated. US Export Credit Agencies, including the US Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, are expected to finance the project.

Under the commercial contract, the project will be completed in 10 sections within six years. The first section, from the Namanga Road junction near Kitengela, will have an interchange near Konza City and a spur road to the Machakos turnoff at Kyumvi. This section is to be opened in October 2019. The project will include the development of a Master Plan for three Special Economic Zones along the alignment, and focus will be on developing business in coordination with the standard gauge railway. A statement by KeNHA director general Peter Mundinia, late last year, said the project was structured to achieve early completion under a fast track delivery model with concurrent design and construction.

Njogu said KeNHA is already expanding sections of the highway ahead of major works. The sections include Athi River-Machakos turnoff and Mombasa-Mariakani. The 20 km Athi River-Machakos turnoff, which is being undertaken by the China Railway 21st Bureau Group Company Limited, is is expected to cost Sh5.3 billion, according to Njogu. The segment is being upgraded into a dual carriageway and will have two bridges. The expanded highway will significantly improve connectivity, efficiency and safety of road transport between the country’s capital and the port city of Mombasa.

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