On May 14, the Nairobi Expressway has opened to traffic on a trial basis ahead of the official launch. The facility which is aimed at cutting traveling time across the city from the current two hours to just about twenty minutes has received enthusiastic reception with over 10,000 motorists registering ahead of the trials.
Despite its pivotal location as the gateway to the east and central Africa region, Nairobi’s traffic snarl-ups have been notorious. A 2019 study by the Institute of Economic Affairs revealed that the country was losing over KSh. 50 million daily to traffic congestion, most of which are recorded in Nairobi.
Stretching 27 kilometers, the Nairobi Expressway will be an important piece in Kenya’s jigsaw puzzle in search for a more efficient transport system. It already links the Central Business District with Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and the Standard Gauge Railway – all of which are crucial in aiding movement into and out of the city. The expressway also terminates in the Westlands district which neighbours the United Nations complex where many international meetings also take place.
Besides cutting the travel time, the Expressway will also contribute to Kenya’s economic wellbeing in various ways. During its construction, the facility provided over 6,000 direct jobs, a major feat considering that the works continued in the backdrop of a biting Covid-19 pandemic. Over 200 subcontractors and suppliers also found opportunity in the construction phase. More Kenyans are now set to be engaged in the operation of the facility.
Secondly, the construction of the Expressway has boosted Kenya’s industrial and technical skills capacity in the road construction sector. Young Kenyans were able to acquire skills that they can now use in search for additional opportunities in other projects. Equally, the production sites for the materials used in the construction of the road will outlast the Expressway and provide materials to other projects both in Kenya and beyond. These technology transfer and industrial boost outcomes will further fortify Kenya’s regional position as a learning point.
Thirdly, the Expressway is an exemplification of a possible model of cooperation between China and Africa. Financed and built by China Road and Bridge Corporation under a public-private partnership model, the government did not incur financial cost; hence leading to the provision of a public good without increasing public debt.
The built, operate and transfer model also means the operator must provide quality service in order to retain the clients. The co-creation model further enhances co-ownership and responsibility on the side of government as well as the operator; all of which should eventually reflect in efficiency of the road.
The Expressway is already making positive waves in Kenya’s social sector. The inaugural City Marathon was held on the facility in a move that promises to transform Kenya’s sporting legacy. Nairobi is now more confident as it bids for global athletic events especially marathons. Better traffic flow and ease of connectivity to major city entry and exit points will also promote hospitality and tourism industry.
To harness the full potential of the Expressway, the public should appreciate its utilitarian value and give constructive feedback. Similarly, the operator must step up to the concerns raised by the motorists, especially during the trial phase; implement sustainable remedies and provide the much-needed traffic congestion respite for Nairobi residents and visitors.