Published on 02 June 2012 in Daily Nation by Alphonce Shiundu
Japan has given Kenya a grant of Sh1.6 billion to help ease traffic in the capital, Nairobi. The money will be used to expand Ngong Road –the 4.7km stretch between Adams Arcade to the Ngong Road-Kenyatta Avenue junction.
There will be sidewalks for pedestrians and cyclists once the three-year project, whose deadline is February 2015, is completed.
The deal was sealed Saturday when Finance minister Njeru Githae and Japan’s envoy to Kenya Toshihisa Takata put pen to paper at a brief ceremony in Nairobi’s Serena Hotel.
It now brings to Sh31 billion the amount of money that the Japan Government has given Kenya for the building of roads in two of Kenya’s most important cities of Nairobi and Mombasa. And this in just a fortnight.
The Mombasa project is a funded by a loan of Sh28.9 billion, and it will go towards the building of a 25.7-kilometre road bypass in Mombasa and a link road to the new container terminal in Kipevu. There are also three long bridges ranging between 900m and 1,450m, in Mombasa.
Addressing journalists at the ceremony, Mr Githae said the country is banking on Japan to help Kenya roll out the devolved units of government.
“We hope to count on you and hope that you will continue to support us,” he told Mr Takata and the new President of Japan International Cooperation Agency, Dr Akihiko Tanaka, who is in the country.
Mr Takata also said that the ongoing projects in Nairobi that have been funded by Japan were facing “unfortunate” delays because of “slowness of coordination in the initial stages of work”.
“Relocation or removal of obstacles such as electric poles and wires, water pipes, sewer pipers did not materialize on schedule as originally planned. Time is money. All the stakeholders will need to cooperate with the contractor more closely for construction to be done on time,” the Japanese envoy said.
The envoy sounded unhappy over the delays, saying that “Japan is determined to prove its worth as Kenya’s quality partner in achieving the goals of Vision 2030”.
“We are serious in the quality of work including timeliness of completion…Nairobi will benefit from quality work,” he said. Roads minister Franklin Bett was also at the venue at which he said that the Ngong Road grant was “exciting”. Mr Bett apologised for the slow removal of the obstacles, but said that the contractors should “concentrate on the areas where the utilities have already been removed”.
The Kenya Urban Roads Authority will handle the Ngong Road project.
The rationale for the expansion of the Ngong Road project, according to a brief seen by the Sunday Nation, is that the population of Nairobi, both that of vehicles and people, has increased, yet the infrastructure has remained unchanged.
The congestion has seen the cost of transport shoot through the roof.
“Local residents, especially low-income earners, have been burdened with such high transportation expenses,” to an extent that they are forced to walk to and from work, the brief reads.
“The improvement of traffic congestion has therefore become a pressing need lest further deterioration adversely affects economic development,” it added.
Cumulatively, Mr Githae said Japan has given Kenya aid worth Sh418 billion since independence, with some of the projects being the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology; the Kenya Medical Research Institute, the Moi International Airport, the upgrades to hospitals and other projects in Agriculture.
The loan for the Dongo Kundu project in Mombasa, Mr Takata added, will be repaid for a period of 30 years, at an interest rate of 1.2 per cent. There’s also a grace period of ten years. “The terms are very concessional,” said Mr Takata. After the meeting at Serena, the team went to State House, Nairobi, to brief President Kibaki.
A dispatch from State House Nairobi, said President Kibaki “thanked” Japan for supporting
Kenya’s agriculture, education and health sectors. The Head of State spoke when he met JICA President Akihiko Tanaka who paid him a courtesy call.