Kenya on Friday commissioned Nairobi-Thika expressway aimed at unlocking regional economic potential in the East Africa region. The 51km road is a major link to the great Trans-African highway from Cape Town, South Africa to Cairo, Egypt and which also connects Somalia and Ethiopia with Nairobi. Construction  started in 2009 and the project was jointly financed by Kenya, African Development Bank and the Chinese government.

It is also an important commercial and transport corridor to the country and the region. Speaking during the commissioning, President Mwai Kibaki said the super-highway was an example of government efforts and commitment to transform Kenya into an economic hub for the region. “In addition, better roads provide proximity to major commercial centers and open up areas for residential settlement where citizens from different parts of the country can buy or rent houses,” Kibaki said.

The road links the main commercial centres of Isiolo, Marsabit, Moyale and Mandera (in northern Kenya) to Nairobi and provides a reliable transport corridor linking Kenya with Ethiopia in the north and Tanzania in the south. The immediate intention of the highway is to ease traffic congestion in the Nairobi metropolitan area in order to increase the pace of doing business in an area that contributes the biggest value to the national economy.

The expressway is supported by two by-passes, the Eastern Bypass that connects it to another highway known as Mombasa Road, and the Northern Bypass also connecting it to another highway known as Waiyaki Way. All the three form the trio of arteries that service large motor traffic to, from and through the heart of the Nairobi Business District. Chinese Ambassador to Kenya, Mr Liu Guangyuan said during the official opening ceremony that since the project commenced about three years ago, the Chinese contractors, namely SinoHydro, China WuYi and Shengli, have faced so many challenges.

“Today, we are happy to see that they have finished their work in a professional way and presented to the people of Kenya a beautiful and modern masterpiece,” Liu said.”I am sure many Kenyans, especially those living next to the superhighway, can recall that construction workers, both Kenyan and Chinese, involved in building this superhighway, worked day and night – and with speed -to complete the work within the shortest time possible. During the entire project time, the workers neither went to bars in the evening nor on holiday to Mombasa beach. Instead, they dedicated all their time and energy to this project,” Liu said.

He said that the Thika superhighway is the fruit of the strengthening the ever-growing China-Kenya friendship and cooperation. “China will always be a dependable friend and sincere partner of the developing countries. China and Kenya share the same destiny and face the same challenges in the future. Therefore, only by working together will Chinese and Kenyan people create an even better tomorrow,” the ambassador said.

While local commuters have been the biggest gainers in having their travel time lessened, another category of big winners has been the property developers who have had the value of their property rise by up to 5 times or more as a result of better infrastructure along expressway.Savvy property investors are now cashing on this value by selling their property at much higher price than they bought. Owners of rental properties like apartments have also increased rent.Winners also include local engineers who got a chance to be attached to the project and the engineering profession in general as the project forms one of the best case studies in the construction of roads.

The expressway is the biggest single such project in Kenya by value and size. Other beneficiaries also include the 3,500 Kenyans who got a chance to work on the project throughout its span period. (Xinhua)


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