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INFRASTRUCTURE

Expressway provides opportunities for the youth

As with many projects worth their while, it has its fair share of risks.

In Summary
  • Traffic congestion is estimated to cost Kenya Sh50 million daily, imagine if the expressway helps to reduce gridlock by even a half.
  • The money we will save could be injected into providing opportunities for the youth.
The Nairobi Expressway will run from Mlolongo in Machakos county to James Gichuru Junction, Nairobi.
The Nairobi Expressway will run from Mlolongo in Machakos county to James Gichuru Junction, Nairobi.
Image: COURTESY

Studies have shown that roads are vital to any development agenda. They link producers of goods and services to potential buyers and customers. They open up areas that were previously inaccessible to the general populace, thus, creating many opportunities for socioeconomic growth. They turn previously sleepy environments into vibrant residential and commercial hubs. They increase the value of property, promising better returns to investors.

A good example is the Thika Superhighway. Before it was constructed, the area in which it's located was considered sleepy. Traffic congestion was rampant on an overburdened infrastructure that was then known as Thika Road.

The economy incurred billions of shillings in losses as a result of time wasted idling in traffic jams, the fuel burnt in the meantime and the endless unquantifiable opportunities lost as a result of a region not optimised to provide its highest and best use.

But if you pass through the Thika Superhighway today, you will marvel at how the area’s geography has transformed. Malls, residential apartments, and even office blocks dot the landscape. This is the urbanising influence of infrastructure development.

Perhaps we could provide paid internships and placements for young people looking for meaningful employment. Alternatively, we could provide subsidised seed capital for start-ups owned by the youth, or fund institutions that train young people for the job market. This will bridge the skills gap.

Major infrastructure provides lots of socioeconomic opportunities, especially for the youth. When the Institution of Engineers of Kenya sought to establish the status of the Nairobi Expressway and subsequently invited Kenha to its President's End Year 2019, the presentation by Kenha officials implied that the expressway will bring with it many opportunities, especially for the youth.

Traffic congestion is estimated to cost Kenya Sh50 million daily, imagine if the expressway helps to reduce traffic congestion by even a half. The money we will save could be injected into providing opportunities for the youth. Perhaps we could provide paid internships and placements for young people looking for meaningful employment.

Alternatively, we could provide subsidised seed capital for start-ups owned by the youth, or fund institutions that train young people for the job market. This will bridge the skills gap.

In the meantime, suppliers of materials needed for road construction will have an opportunity to grow their businesses as the common mwananchi starts to feel the trickle-down effect of the infrastructure project.

Second, the regions surrounding the expressway will grow further, empowering the local mwananchi socioeconomically. The expressway is part of the Northern Corridor. This corridor is a crucial economic gateway to Kenya, as it links the Port of Mombasa, JKIA, SGR Nairobi Terminus and the Inland Container Depot in Embakasi. Because of the convenience that a road that promises to significantly reduce traffic congestion offers, many investors are likely to relocate to Mombasa Road, creating jobs.

Interestingly, this is going to be the first major infrastructure project that will be undertaken under Public Private Partnership (PPP). As a result, the cost to the taxpayer is minimal, reduced to only relocating water, power lines and ICT providers along the way, as well as providing the necessary services, including bearing the cost of land acquisition.

Even then, it is refreshing to learn that Kenha is optimising the design to ensure that the need for land acquisition is minimised, hence Uhuru Park will not be hived off to pave way for the expressway.

The expressway is, therefore, a welcome addition to our infrastructure portfolio. Excitingly, it will be the first of its kind in Kenya. It will have modern features; access ramps, grade separation, lane dividers, and elevated sections.

Proponents of the project have their fingers crossed, hoping that it will be a success. Critics have pointed fingers at possible defects and potential mishaps.

True, as with any investment with a worthwhile return, this one too carries a considerable amount of risk with it. Stakeholders have agreed on toll charges of Sh 11.24 per kilometre, which means that the entire stretch from Mlolongo to James Gichuru Road will cost a motorist Sh300.

These toll charges will provide the cash flows for the project, including the capital overlaid, and the operating costs.

Many are waiting to see if the toll charges will recoup the initial investment, and what will happen if it takes longer than expected to recoup the investment.

Writer on youth affairs