Shipping & Logistics

Unreliable roads remain a key impediment to growth

 Kainuk-Kapenguria road
A truck on the Kainuk-Kapenguria road. Some roads have been classified as narrow by new survey. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Access to reliable transport in more than a third of counties in Kenya is below the national average, posing challenges to economic growth in the country.

The road inventory and condition report by the Kenya Roads Board (KRB) shows 38 percent of counties have a Rural Access Index (RAI) of below 70 percent which is the country’s average.

Northern and Northern Eastern counties such as Tana River, Wajir, Turkana and Lamu which are typically sparsely populated, have access indices ranging between 11 and 30 percent.

This is in comparison to agricultural counties such as Nyandarua, Kisii, Kakamega and Uasin Gishu which have the highest access indices ranging between 72 percent and 100 percent.

RAI is the global indicator for measuring people’s access to reliable transport in rural areas which has a direct link to their reach to opportunities.


The KRB proposes that absolute numbers be used in estimating the RAI to mitigate against over- and underestimation of individual county access indices due to projected population numbers.

“It is proposed that a follow up index estimates are calculated after the national census based on absolute numbers,” said KRB in the 2018 State of the Roads report.

The survey conducted between August 2016 and November 2018 shows that the general network condition of Kenyan roads has improved significantly. The proportion of roads in good condition increased to 56 percent in 2018 from 44 percent in 2009.

Kenya’s road extent network increased from 160,886Km in 2009 to approximately 246,757 Km, an improvement linked to better funding and administration of the road network maintenance.

“At 70 percent average access index, Kenya ranks among the best in Africa and within the top 100 worldwide,” says the report.

The country has a paved road network of a meagre 11 percent and much of its unpaved consisting 57 percent of earth roads. This has made Kenyan roads particularly vulnerable to climate stressors including flooding, higher temperatures and increased precipitation/rainfall.

The survey mapped out 50,282 Km of narrow roads (4 m-9m wide) which is estimated to be half of roads within the country.

Narrow roads are not part of classified road network, meaning that their maintenance is not covered under the Road Maintenance Levy Fund.

The KRB has proposed that narrow roads be managed by county governments and assigned new road class.

Infrastructure, the report says, plays a role in economic growth and poverty reduction and lack of it affects productivity and increases costs of doing business.

Roads are the primary mode of transport in Africa for both freight and passangers. Inadequate road financing has over the years hindered road development across the continent.

The report says Kenya economy like other economies in the world largely depends on its road network for transportation of passangers, goods and services.

Lack of good roads, the survey adds, is the cause of marginalisation of some parts of Kenya.

The government has carried out three road inventory and condition surveys since 2001 to give an updated status of Kenyan roads. The study informs various decisions including planning for road maintenance.