Chinese Construction of East African Highway in Kenya
   2013-08-19 20:51:10      Web Editor: Guo Jing


Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta is now in China for a 5-day visit.

His agenda is expected to include talks to try to further cooperation in infrastructure construction, manufacturing, technological innovation and tourism.

This is Kenyatta's first visit to China since taking office in April.

Kenyatta has also taken time to discuss the 8-lane Nairobi-Thika superhighway, which is the first superhighway in East Africa.

A Chinese firm has been contracted to build the road.

For more on the role of Chinese construction firms in this Nairobi-Thika super highway, CRI's Nathan Wakelin-King has more.

Many recently built roads, bridges, or buildings in Kenya have names based on the Chinese companies that constructed them--sometimes these names are official, sometimes they are not.

The Thika superhighway was completed by Chinese state-owned construction firm Wu Yi in 2012.

The Thika highway links Nairobi to the city of Thika, and is East Africa's first superhighway. It is part of the highway network that connects Capetown to Cairo. 

Mr. J M Matu, chairman of APEC Consulting Engineers in Kenya, supervised the work of Wu Yi during the construction of the highway. He explained the significance of the project.

"This road is of paramount importance to Kenyans, it is one of the roads which leads to a highly cultivated agricultural area within the Mt. Kenya region, and beyond, there is the area between Meru and a place called Moyaleh, where there is a lot of cattle to be sold, and it is important that cattle is brought to Nairobi for meat, and also for export."

The expansion of the highway will greatly improve the efficiency of transport in the area, facilitating regional trade and economic development.

"It was initiated because it used to take about 3 hours to travel for a distance of only 50 kilometres. Now it only takes 30 minutes."

The project itself encountered technical challenges in preparing the ground for the highway. Old underground cables and pipes, as well as overhead electric cables, had to be removed for the development of the highway.

The size of the project brought other challenges to Wu Yi.

Matu: "The project itself involved the expansion of the road, that is, widening it. Before, it was two lanes on one side, and two lanes on the other; it is now being expanded to a total of twelve lanes, so more space was needed to work in- this affected the surrounding built-up area, meaning landowners had to agree to be compensated, and allow the road to be constructed."

Mr Matu says that Chinese construction companies have facilitated the timely completion of infrastructure projects in a region that is often beset by projects that are incomplete, or lag behind schedule in their construction.

In total, the project cost 360 million US dollars. This investment was in part provided by the African Development Fund, China Exim Bank, and the Kenyan government.

Wu Yi currently has 18 projects in Kenya.

The African Development Bank, as well as the government of Kenya, have argued that although car emissions are harmful to the environment, the construction of the highway is making a net-positive impact on the environment as previously, idling vehicles stuck in traffic jams burnt unnecessarily high amounts of fuel.

For CRI, I am Nathan Wakelin-King.


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