Opinion and Analysis
Applauding Kibaki legacy in growth of local infrastructure
Watching President Kibaki launch the 280MW geothermal power plant a fortnight ago set me reflecting on the past ten years of his presidency.
Many will define the Kibaki presidency as an era when the Kenya set a solid foundation for a fast economic take-off through prioritisation of key infrastructure development.
This is after the country had previously gone through two decades of neglect of critical infrastructure.
Socio-economic progress can only be achieved on the back of an adequate and efficient infrastructure. It is this that defines ease and cost of doing business, and the general quality of life.
As Kibaki’s term draws to an end, we have numerous high impact infrastructure projects that are already completed, others are work in progress, while many are in commitment and planning stages. These straddle the transportation, communications and energy sectors, among others.
Vision 2030 has helped to identify and prioritise critical projects, thus avoiding “white elephants” that normally result when “roadside” decisions take precedence over long term planning.
Financing for projects has not been easy. However, the decision to diversify funding and project support to the East as opposed to the traditional West appears to have paid off well.
Further, the country seems to have removed politics from project conception and implementation. There is also evidence of enhanced project “value for money” through improved procurement and management.
Perhaps the highest impact project was the under-sea fibre optic project in the ICT sector. It was also probably the easiest to achieve because of private sector involvement.
The impact has been immediate, and as it continues to be rolled out to the counties, it will have a strong multiplier effect.
Nairobi airport expansion, which is still in progress, is a high economic impact project. The airport project will greatly increase the city’s prominence as a regional and international hub, while supporting increased economic activities such as tourism and international business making it a major generator of foreign exchange.
Along with this has been the modernisation of airports across the country, with Kisumu as the premier example.
The high profile Mombasa Port expansion will accommodate increased external trade for many years, while supporting regional connectivity.
However, to achieve its full value, the port support systems will need to be improved to increase efficiency.
Enhanced railway capacity to evacuate and deliver cargo to the port is still the key missing link to effective import/export logistics.
Perhaps the most visible undertaking is the ongoing rationalisation of Nairobi metropolitan transport systems, with a new matrix of highways, by-passes and link roads.
Economic payback for this is already being realised. Less fuel is being wasted in traffic hold-ups thus saving on foreign exchange, while also reducing carbon emissions.
Human productivity has increased with fewer hours wasted on city roads. City decongestion through human settlements re-alignment is taking place.
The proposed metropolitan rail commuter project, if effectively configured, will realise similar benefits.
In the energy sector, the project that has delivered the highest socio-economic impact to thousands of Kenyans is rural electrification.
The setting up of a dedicated implementing body and availability of guaranteed funding through levies has de-politicised the process while achieving remarkable results.
At long last, strenuous years of power supply planning are coming to fruition with the recent launch of the 280MW geothermal project. Geothermal power, being green energy, will easily attract global funding.
Recent confirmation of funding for both the wind generation in Turkana and the inter-connection with Ethiopian hydro sources is a welcome development.
The government has laid a good foundation for the future with success stories being reported in fossil fuels exploration; coal is awaiting exploitation, oil is awaiting commercial quantification and ongoing coastal exploration holds good prospects for finding gas.
It is these three fossil fuel resources that will potentially change the economic shape of this country.
It is for the coming government to ensure that these resources are responsibly managed to add full value, without corrupting our economy.
However, over the past decade, the government has not adequately addressed petroleum downstream infrastructure development; a master plan is still a critical missing link.
A well coordinated master plan is necessary to attract much needed private capital in this sector. The pipeline capacity improvement has, however, been achieved.
The government has set in motion development of Lamu corridor projects, whose implementation will greatly change the economic face of northern parts of Kenya.
It is hoped that before the current term of this government expires, the Lamu Port construction will have begun.
President Kibaki’s legacy on infrastructure development, among other key achievements, will certainly be well acknowledged for many years to come.
Wachira is the director, Petroleum Focus Consultants. Email:Wachira@petroelumfocus.com