Kenya has officially launched its long-awaited Nairobi Expressway after concluding months of trials.
Kenyan president, Uhuru Kenyatta, announced the completion of the project at a ceremony in July, saying the 27-kilometre tolled highway would ease traffic flow and cut travel times significantly.
The Nairobi Expressway was commissioned in 2019, six years into Kenyatta’s presidency.
Also called the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) Westlands Highway, the project was designed and constructed by the Chinese Road and Bridge Corporation.
The Expressway runs south-to-north between the airport and ends in the tea-producing region of Rironi, Limaru.
Speaking at the road-opening ceremony, Kenyatta hailed the landmark project, telling guests that travel times for commuters between the two hubs had been reduced from nearly three hours to between 15 and 30 minutes.
The president explained that logjams in Nairobi alone cost the economy millions of dollars in wasted fuel and time every year.
The project solidified Nairobi’s position as a nerve centre for commerce and industry in central Africa, said Kenyatta. Millions of citizens in the local tourism, hospitality and conferencing industries rely on the network of roads that permeate the region.
A 2018 report indicated only 10% of Kenyan roads were asphalt. Kenyatta said the new tarred surface was conducive to a better and more efficient environment for everyone.
The Nairobi Expressway is the first project of its kind to be executed via a Public Private Partnership (PPP). The Chinese Road and Bridge Corporation financed and built the highway and will maintain and operate the project during the concession period, where it will recoup some of its estimated $500 million investment through tolling motorists.
The deal did not require the Kenyan government to take on additional debt, rather it leveraged private capital, something Kenyatta was confident would continue.
Ambassador to Kenya, Zhou Pingjian, congratulated Kenyatta, saying the Expressway was indicative of strong Kenya-China relations.
At present, Kenya is co-developing several large infrastructure projects with their Chinese trade partners, including a massive $336 million offshore oil rig, and a 480-kilometre railway that will connect the port city of Mombasa with Nairobi.
The Kenyan leader commissioned the revamp of the Nairobi Eastern Bypass, a major artery for businesses in the capital.
Once completed, the road will host five new crossings and six dual-lane carriageways on the 11-kilometre-long road’s busiest sections. A 97 kilometre series of bypasses have also been planned to further decongest traffic in and around Nairobi.
Since coming into office, Kenyatta has overseen the construction of more than 11 500 kilometres of tarred roads, representing 85% of all asphalt surfaces in the country, according to the Ugandan media publication, The Independent.