Construction of the Isiolo-Mandera road has inched closer to reality after the Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) released details of design update and how some of the sections of the road will be financed.
According to a project brief by KeNHA, the North Eastern Improvement Project (NEIP) has been divided into nine lots, all of which are in different stages of design.
The brief details the length of each of the lots on the 748km road that is expected to transform northern Kenya and improve security.
At nearly Sh100 billion, the Isiolo-Mandera highway will be the single largest infrastructure project in northern Kenya and one of the most expensive roads in the country.
For instance, design review for the 77km Isiolo-Kulamawe section has been completed with the project appraisal by the World Bank set for later this month. Evaluation for shortlisting of construction supervision for the 113km Kulamawe-Modogashe section is ongoing.
The financing proposal for the 68km Modogashe-Samatar section will soon be presented to Treasury and World Bank for confirmation. While these sections of the road are projected to cost Sh35 billion, the cost of building the entire project is estimated at over Sh85 billion, according to the brief.
Charles Njogu, KeNHA assistant director of corporate communications said the timeline on ground-breaking of some of the sections would be communicated in due course.
Details have however emerged that the project has already received Sh500 million from the World Bank for mobilisation, part of the first batch of Sh50 billion that has been secured to build the first 350km.
“Funding for the rest of the distance will be sourced in the course of the project which will also incorporate a fibre optic cable network and other social amenities,” said an engineer who is involved in planning of the project, adding that bids would soon be advertised.
The project is expected to transform the northern part of the country which has suffered decades of marginalisation. For instance, a journey from Nairobi to Mandera by road is one of the most torturous experiences, taking more than two days and up to two weeks during rainy season.
This is besides the security threat posed by the presence of the Al-Shabaab militants who waylay public transport vehicles.
Mr Ali Nur, the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI) eastern region commissioner, said construction of the road will be a major boost to the region.
“Currently travelling to Nairobi from Mandera takes not less than a week and this has led to this area being marginalised. The road will cut this time to less than 48 hours and improve security,” Mr Nur said.