Kenya has had an interaction with China on various projects for decades. While the magnitude of projects seem to be growing, there has been growing fear of establishment of less beneficial projects in the country by Chinese constructors. However, there are various projects that have stood out as quite the real deal.
- ‘Safaricom’ Stadium formerly Moi International Sports Centre Kasarani (1987)
Though there were other projects prior to this, the development of the stadium was the first significant investment. Kenya had just won the rights to host the 4th of All African Games and without enough stadia to host the games, the government started from the scratch. It partnered with the Chinese Government, who swang in and developed the iconic stadium that for a long time was the biggest in the region- though some countries have later built bigger ones.
The facilities include a 60,000 seat arena with a running track and a pitch used for football and rugby , a competition size swimming pool, an indoor arena and a 108-bed capacity hotel.
The stadium is a major host of sporting, cultural and political events. Later, Safaricom acquired naming rights for the facility which has ensured it is kept in good shape.
2. Sections of A109 National Highway from Voi to Mutito Andei (1999-2000)
A109 National Highway is the main road that connects Nairobi to the coastal region. It is a major nerve that moves millions of vehicles across the two major cities of Nairobi and Mombasa. The first patch of the road was Mackinnon-Scalter road, a 1000km ox cart earth track from Mombasa to Busia whose construction started in 1890 by the Imperial British East Africa company (IBEA). The road then developed into a great road though with intermittent raptures and repairs as wear and tear increased.
Then in 1999, the Kenyan government engaged the China Road and Bridge Construction for the construction of the Mutito Andei to Voi section. This section of the road went through the risky Tsavo National park with the length of 150Km. It was started in January 1999 and completed in May 2000. Almost 20 years later, this is one of the most used section of any roads in Kenya which has brought in returns.
3. Nairobi- Thika Super Highway (2010-2012)
Thika Super Highway was a game changer for Kenya in many ways. The original road was always clogged with traffic snarl-ups that could last for hours as well as regular road accidents as activities along the route increased with rise of residential and other towns.
Though Kenyans had become accustomed to dual carriage highways like Waiyaki way and Mombasa road and even the old Thika road, this new Thika Super highway introduced new features including several interchanges, more lanes per section, underpasses, service lanes and bridges. It was constructed through funding from Africa Development Bank, Exim Bank of China and the Kenyan government at a cost of Ksh 32 billion (US$360 million).
The construction brought forth the Chinese prowess as three of Chinese companies constructed different sections. China Wu Yi built the section from the Uhuru Highway to Muthaiga Roundabout, Sinohydro built from Muthaiga Roundabout to Kenyatta University, and Shengli Engineering completed the highway to Thika.
Thika road, one of the signature projects of President Mwai Kibaki opened a great portion of Eastern, Central and even northern Kenya to development. Several malls have popped up along the road, dozens of new controlled residential estates and even the rise of Tatu City. The road is attributed to a sizable portion of GDP.
4. Mombasa- Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway (2014-2017)
The Standard Gauge Railway has attracted debate for years now on the viability as well as effectiveness. However, from whichever side of the debate one looks at it, it has been a major economic undertaking.
Replacing the old Lunatic express, the standard gauge railway was mooted by the presidency of Mwai Kibaki with initial signing of deals happening in 2012. At a cost of US$3.6 billion, the SGR is Kenya’s most expensive infrastructure project since independence.
China Road and Bridge Construction company was granted tender to build the road in a project was funded through the Exim Bank of China. There was a large number of Kenyans employed in the project which opened Kenya to modern railway construction. The 485 kilometre railway involved various high bridges on a route that the constructor tried to maintain a straight line. There were also several ultra modern railway stations along the way
It has the capacity to run a commuter and cargo train which has revolutionized the manner in which Kenyans travel between the two cities of Nairobi and Mombasa. It has also moved thousands of metric tonnes of cargo recouping sizeable amount of money that was used to construct it. Though many argued on the amount of money used and the technology used, the project has had a significant change in Kenya’s economy.
5. Lake Turkana- Suswa power line transmission (2018)
When the Lake Turkana Power Project was designed to produce 310MW of reliable, low cost energy to Kenya’s national grid (i.e. approx. 15% of the country’s installed capacity). However, there was worry that the project will yield to nothing after the Spanish company which won the tender to connect the power collected to the national grid became redundant. Then, came consortium of Chinese companies, which took over the project and managed to construct the 433.96km line from Loiyangalani in Turkana to Suswa in Narok in just seven months.
The Sh9.6 billion contract awarded to NARI Group Corporation and Power China Guizhou Engineering Company was a saviour to Kenya’s economy as the managers of the Lake Turkana Power Project had slapped the country with a monthly fine Sh1 billion monthly penalty for delays in evacuating power to the national grid. The initiative has already fined Kenya Sh5.7 billion for the delays of the high-voltage line (400 kilovolts).
Now, the President is expected to launch the project and add additional power which is expected to bring the cost of power down.