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Kenya's building blueprint

 Photo: Resort city of the future.
 Resort city of the future.
Chinese mainland and Hong Kong firms are said to be major movers in Kenya's ambitious infrastructure development programme. The aim is to enhance Kenya's hub status and open up trade throughout East Africa and the Great Lakes region.

This multi-billion US dollar initiative is upgrading, expanding and building new roads, railway lines, airports and seaports to increase and enable the free flow of tourism, goods and services inbound and outbound throughout the region.

To the north, the grand plan will serve Southern Sudan with an estimated four million people and Ethiopia with an estimated 80 million; to the west, there's a move to form what has been dubbed the "Equatorial Land Bridge" that creates access as far as Douala in Cameroon in West Africa.

The 50.4 km Nairobi to Thika SuperHighway was opened recently by Kenya's President Emilio Mwai Kibaki, triggering massive investment, due to freer-flowing traffic.

Upmarket homes, schools, hospitals and shopping facilities are mushrooming along the route, spreading new interest in the country's property market and acting as a destination for investors.

Photo: Plan for a cross-border transport super highway. Photo: Route of the 'Equitorial Land Bridge'.
Plan for a cross-border transport super highway. Route of the "Equitorial Land Bridge".

Michael Kidenda, CEO of the Kenya National Highways Authority said the route has reduced travel times from two hours to less than forty five minutes.

The road was built through external investment by Chinese mainland companies China Wu Yi, Sheng Li and Sinohydro Corporation, with joint financing by the Kenyan government, the African Development Bank and Export-Import Bank of China (Exim Bank).

It cost US$400 million, converting the route from a four-lane to an eight-lane freeway with flyovers, foot bridges, underpasses and overpasses that ensure free flow of traffic and safety over pedestrian crossings.

"Traditionally, good roads create access and the free movement has had a 'domino effect', generating new wealth and convenience in all sectors along the route,'' said David Gatimu, Deputy Director of City Planning in Nairobi.

Demand for building materials

The boom in the property sector has resonated in related areas, with higher demand for building materials; evidently, Hong Kong is a major source for most items.

The benefit of good roads includes higher savings of fuel and also saves "wear and tear" on vehicles.

Joseph Wafula, Senior Petroleum Economist with the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) said that as a result the country will see reduced bills for oil imports.

According to survey by the ERC, Kenya imported 3.7 million tonnes of oil in 2011 and 3.9 million tonnes last year at an average of US$1.6 billion per year.

The country's oil consumption had increased 6% annually but this was reduced to 2% in 2012, even with more vehicles on Kenyan roads.

Social life - and hence consumer spending - is also enjoying the benefit of the upgraded roads, with more people now able to access recreation facilities without difficulty.

"Cinema attendance which had been badly affected due to the congestion on the roads is experiencing a revival and leisure is expected to grow both as a business and a vocation," said Anil Kapila, Managing Director of Fox Entertainment Group.

The company had closed down two cinemas and contemplated shutting down a third. Now, Fox has had to rethink its plans and is considering prospects of new theatres.

Photo: New infrastructure at JKIA. 
New infrastructure at JKIA. 
"Now people can reach the venues easily and we are looking at ways to capture the cinema market,'' said Kapila.

The major aviation hub, Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), is expected to see completion of first phase re-development next August, helping to upgrade aviation links.

The contractor is the Mainland's China National Aero-Technology Import & Export Corporation (CATIC) and commentators expect the work will transform the Kenyan airport into a modern airport city.

"It will be a perfect airport city with all requirements including shopping facilities, conference halls, restaurants and relaxation centres" said Dominic Ngigi, Corporate Communications Manager at the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA). He said that on completion, the JKIA will be able to increase its capacity from 6.5 million to 8 million passengers.

New features include eight restaurants, passenger lounges, automated baggage handling systems, as well as seven new passenger boarding bridges and renovations to the Arrivals Hall.

A new Terminal Four that will cover a ground area of 37,500 sqm at a cost of US$110 million.

The next phase of the JKIA project will be the construction of the Greenfield terminal building, which is expected to begin this year for completion in 2017, at a cost of US$ 654 million.

Ngige said the projects will increase handling capacity, while enhancing safety, security and convenience.

Cross-border rail links

 Photo: Proposed Lamu Convention Centre.
 Proposed Lamu Convention Centre.
The third of the development projects is the new Lamu port and Lapsset corridor railway that will to serve Ethiopia and Southern Sudan.

A masterplan has been approved and will include a second deep sea harbour (after Kilindini port in Mombasa) as well create three new resort cities at Lamu, Isiolo and Turkana. These resorts will see the creation of new tourism and other business facilities.

The estimated cost of the overall plan is estimated at US$16 billion and is to be jointly financed by the governments of Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan.

The Chinese mainland engineering firm JS Neoplant Co Ltd is tipped as a strong contender for implementing the plan.

The facilities at Lamu include a deep harbour, an oil refinery, as well as an international airport with an annual capacity for 2 million passengers both domestic and international.

Isiolo resort city will be served by the existing airport but a new one is expected to be constructed later.

As for Turkana, this will be served by the airport at Lokichoggio with plans for a new one due to its proximity to South Sudan.

from special correspondent John Kariuki, Nairobi

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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