Electronic road tolling will avoid traffic jams

In Summary

• Road tolls were tried in the 1980s but were scrapped because they were ineffective and caused long delays

• Many countries use electronic tolling based on computer recognition of car number plates

Artistic impression of the JKIA-James Gichuru Expressway
Artistic impression of the JKIA-James Gichuru Expressway

Opposition is growing to the proposed return of road tolls (see P23). The Motorists Association of Kenya say that it amounts to double taxation to charge vehicles for using public roads that the taxpayer has already paid for.

Road tolls were tried in the 1980s but scrapped in the 1990s and replaced by a road maintenance levy added to the price of fuel.

Times are tough and the government is struggling to balance its books. Therefore government should ask hard questions about whether new infrastructure projects are really necessary. For instance, is the JKIA-Westlands Expressway useful when new bypasses provide so many alternative routes?


If government decides that new public-private roads are needed, then it makes sense to impose road tolls so long as there are alternative routes that can be used by motorists.

But those roads must use electronic tolling or there will be huge traffic jams. Many countries now collect road tolls using computer recognition (which Nairobi already has for security purposes). Integrate that with M-Pesa and then motorists would be able to drive on toll roads without stopping. Then road tolls would make sense.

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