Chinese-built highway delights Kenyans, stimulates business
NAIROBI, Aug. 18 (Xinhua) — Before the Kenyan government mooted plans to expand Thika Road in 2009, commuters would waste hours on traffic gridlock.
Many commuters wished for the day the road would be traffic jam-free so that they would cut down on time and fuel.
Since completion of the 50km highway that links Nairobi and the satellite town of Thika, residents living along the road, which has since acquired the name of Thika Super Highway, have reported changed fortunes.
Dominic Ombura, a poultry farmer who left his native land in Kisii in western Kenya for greener pastures, said he has since dropped thoughts of abandoning his business because of the snarl-ups that were a common feature along the old road.
“The highway has been a blessing to me because I deal with perishable commodities like poultry meat that need to be delivered speedily lest they go bad,” Ombura said.
Most of Ombura’s clients are in Nairobi, and the hustle of going through traffic jam daily carrying meat and eggs is not difficult to imagine.
“There’s this day that I’ll never forget, there was an accident near Utalii College which paralysed activity on the road for 10 hours, we were trapped in the jam from 5 a.m. until late in the evening,” he recalled.
“One of my major clients is a fast food joint in the Central Business District and that day I was delivering over 100 chicken to them. You can imagine the loss I incurred since they were forced to buy from someone else,” he added.
Josephine Wambugu said the infamous traffic snarl-ups that existed before completion of the highway almost made her lose her job with a bank based in Nairobi.
“There were days I would report to work at 11 a.m. instead of the stipulated time of 8 a.m. even if I left my house at 4 a.m.,” she said.
Wambugu was forced to relocate and rent a house near the city in order to keep her job, but upon completion of the highway, she moved back to Thika.
“Unlike before, I spend less than 20 minutes from my house to the office. The super highway is an idea that saved many people,” she told Xinhua.
The involvement of the Chinese in mega infrastructure projects in Kenya has been on the increase. The Thika super highway was constructed by Chinese firms SinoHydro Corporation, China Wu Yi and Sinopec Shengli Oilfield.
Thika super-highway was one of the major projects that showcased the close China-Kenya relationship, which has continued to grow on the back of converging interests in infrastructure, innovation and natural resources.
Chinese companies are preferred by the Kenyan government because of their competitive pricing, workmanship and their ability to complete the projects according to schedule or even ahead of time.
Apartment buildings have also mushroomed along the highway as people take advantage of the changed circumstances.
Peter Kang’aru said if it were not for the super highway, his small piece of land in Roysambu would still be lying idle.
“After completion of the highway, I seized the golden opportunities that came with the road and constructed and put up two bedroom apartments from which I earn a cumulative amount of 1,000 U.S. dollars per month,” he said.
Six years ago, the then two-lane traffic-clogged road was not ideal for investment.
Its upgrading changed the landscape of the area, eased access and spurred property development.
The highway has boosted business growth and helped expand the Kenyan economy. It has helped link Kenya to Ethiopia, a major regional economy with about 80 million people.
The Thika super highway currently serves as a main cargo route and an important metropolitan, regional and international transit link and is part of the classified international A2 trunk road, which originates in Nairobi City Center and extends to Moyale, Ethiopia.
The road also acts as a main artery for various satellite towns and economic hubs that lie along and near the corridor, including Ruaraka, Kasarani, Kiambu Town, Githurai, Ruiru, Juja and Thika.
Peter Ngau, who teaches urban planning at the University of Nairobi, said that East Africa has never seen anything like it.