With just eight months to the general election and a new government, it’s a race against time for President Uhuru Kenyatta administration to complete critical ongoing projects.
Megaprojects, especially in the transport sector, are expected to cement Kenyatta’s desired legacy. It will further expand the infrastructure footprint laid down by his predecessor, Mwai Kibaki. Notable among these projects is the dualling of the Eastern Bypass.
The official completion date for the 28-kilometer road is November this year. If the manifest construction pace is sustained, the target appears to be a realistic shot. It will be a welcome tonic to the many users of the bypass that has, in many ways, exceeded critical projections on user volumes and benefits.
Officially, the Eastern Bypass primary objective was to create a shorter route to and from the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. The traffic east of Nairobi and surrounding areas was the main target. A corollary to this was decongesting Mombasa Road to the attendant benefits of faster traffic flow to save on time wasted in traffic. There were also expectations on ancillary benefits. Chief among these was a force multiplier for the economic ecosystem along the route and neighbouring areas.
The scorecard for the objectives is impressive. Of the four by-passes forming the Nairobi city road loop, the Eastern Bypass tops in vindicating the nexus between good roads and the economic growth of benefiting areas. A plethora of businesses have sprouted along the highway. The areas between the intersection with Kangundo road and Tatu City has been a magnet for new entertainment clubs, eateries, hardware shops, schools, churches, petrol stations and supermarkets.
The bypass has evolved into a classic victim of its own success. Rapid economic growth has invited more commute inevitably resulting in the same traffic bottleneck it was intended to cure. At the bypass peak traffic hours, it may be comparatively faster for a motorist driving from Thika to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to go through Nairobi’s Central Business District and off to Mombasa Road!
The dualling of the Eastern Bypass is therefore timely and critical. According to the Kenya Urban Roads Authority, the Ksh12.5b project will see the road expanded into four to six lanes depending on location. It will also benefit from streetlights and walkways from Embakasi Barracks to Tatu City at the Ruiru-Kiambu road junction.
Businesses served by the bypass and property owners in surrounding areas stand to reap handsomely from the expansion. Transport for commuters and goods will be faster and arguably cheaper. For traders heavily reliant on transport, the road will be an obvious boon. It will deliver smiles to traders in perishable goods or timebound services where every minute counts. They can expect accelerated deliveries at lower costs.
Satellite towns such as Ruiru, one of Kenya’s fastest-growing population centres, has already established themselves as home to manufacturing and logistics firms. Now it will become an even more attractive business location. Already, there are more than 60 companies operating out of Tatu Industrial Park. Many of these companies rely on access JKIA for cargo and freight services. Others source their supplies from Nairobi’s Industrial Area whose accessibility will be greatly enhanced by the bypass.
As a Special Economic Zone that should ideally benefit from more infrastructural support, the allure of Tatu City and its neighbours as a business location will certainly rise. Closeness to Nairobi and linkages to a vast road network that is complemented by the revival of the Thika-Nanyuki railway further make this area an investor’s dream location.
Land value along and around the bypass is also set to grow exponentially. For earlier buyers of the commodity in this area, the returns on investment have been handsome. What began as a scramble for plots nestling on the highway has been extended by kilometres inside adjacent lands. A testimony to this growth in value is the evident construction boom. Several housing projects and impressive residential homes rival for visibility. Warehouses in varying sizes and architectural awe dot the area.
Key indicators suggest land value in these areas is yet to hit the zenith. Records at the Tatu Industrial Park, for instance, indicate a 25 per cent growth last year. This is just from Tatu City’s own infrastructure of tarmacked roads, water sources and a 135-MVA power substation. With the expansion of the bypass, land values will only go in one direction. Completion of the ongoing dualling is expected to yield a further immediate growth of around 15 per cent.
An economic boom is good news. To national and county governments, it means an expansion of the taxation base and thereby more revenue to fund more projects. An increase in the number and quality of job opportunities will also emerge. These, in turn, fund a higher purchasing power leading to a richer – and taxable – lifestyle!
Expanding economies enrich the entire economic chain. More sales lead to larger profits that can be ploughed back into superior inputs and processes to yield greater and quality produce. A richer, food-secure population means fewer diseases, more disposable income and, at least in theory, less susceptibility to political chicanery.
In an election year, a politically conscious electorate would be the perfect building block for the ideal good governance and the much-vaunted economic take-off.