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Shipping & Logistics

Northern counties bet on Sh81bn road to spur trade

A section of Isiolo town
A section of Isiolo town. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The successful negotiations for the Sh81 billion credit facility between Kenyan and the World Bank (WB) to finance the Horn of Africa Gateway Development Project (HoAGDP), a section of the 395km road from Isiolo to Mandera has elicited hopes from the region's leaders.

Last Tuesday, the World Bank board of directors approved $750 million (Sh81 billion) in International Development Association (IDA) financing for the project aimed at improving movement of people and goods, digital connectivity and access to social services for over 3.2 million people living in the North Eastern region where the Isiolo-Mandera road corridor traverses.

The funds from the World Bank will be used to upgrade 365km of the 740km - Isiolo-Mandera Regional Road Corridor and 30km of spur roads, while the remaining sections will be financed by other development partners.

“The HoAGDP will also finance the laying of a fiber optic cable along the entire 740-kilometre corridor with spurs to local communities; trade facilitation measures, such as border management systems and construction of border posts; the provision of basic socio-economic infrastructure for communities living along the corridor; institutional strengthening; as well as emergency response measures in case of a disaster or catastrophe during the life of the project,” said a statement from the World Bank.

The Frontier Counties Development Council (FCDC) said last Thursday in a statement signed by its chairman Ali Roba, who is the Mandera governor, that the implementation of the project will end marginalisation of the region and open new chapter of development.

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“We express our immense gratitude to President Uhuru Kenyatta under whose direct leadership and negotiation that this approval has been realised. This will be the biggest legacy project of his government for most deserving population,” said Governor Roba.

The council said the delivery of the project will bring down the cost of living, cut travelling time, and foster trade and investment beyond the North.

“The project will touch many lives and present many income generating opportunities. It will also open trading opportunities for Central and Eastern Kenyan for the supply of fresh farm produce to Northern Kenya,” the leaders said.

The loan facility is billed as the single largest credit facility to be approved in the World Bank history for Sub Saharan Africa.

CROSS-BORDER TRADE

“There is no doubt it (road project) will improve living standards and reduce widespread poverty in these counties while at the same time opening up many job and income generating opportunities for youth and bolstering cross-border trade and regional integration with neighbouring countries of Ethiopia and Somalia,” the statement said.

“The road corridor is a regional route, which serves as a transit route connecting Kenya to Somalia and landlocked Ethiopia. It will facilitate agriculture and livestock-based investment flows and transfers of technology.”

Thee project will also involve upgrade to bitumen standards the 190km Isiolo-Modogashe road and the 175km Wajir-Elwak road sections. It will also entail construction of two new bridges and customs border at Rhamu and Mandera and other trade facilities. The urban areas along the road corridor will also get an upgrade of up to 30km of bitumen standard roads.

Also integrated into the transformative road project is a 740km fibre optic cable from Isiolo to Mandera which will improve internet connectivity and digital opportunities plus an additional 200km fibre optic connectivity within the centres.

“With poverty levels in Northern Kenya being extremely high at 70 percent compared to 45 percent national average, and this is largely due to 50 years of neglect by successive governments, the road will impact lives in ways never envisaged before and will harness dozens of opportunities for small scale entrepreneurs and the county governments who pay a fortune as transport costs to have goods and services delivered,” the leaders said in their statement.

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