World Bank approves Sh81bn loan for Isiolo-Mandera road upgrade

The World Bank has approved a Sh81 billion loan to upgrade half of the 740-kilometre Isiolo-Mandera road and lay a fibre-optic cable in a major boost to the North Eastern region.

The lender said on Wednesday that it projects the International Development Association (IDA) financing will improve the movement of people and goods, digital connectivity and access to social services for over 3.2 million people living in the region.

"Through the new operation – the Horn of Africa Gateway Development Project (HoAGDP) – the World Bank will finance the upgrading of 365 kilometres of the 740-kilometre Isiolo-Mandera Regional Road Corridor and 30km of spur roads, while the upgrading of the remaining sections will be financed by other development partners," the lender said in a statement.

It added that the HoAGDP will also finance laying of a fibre optic cable along the entire 740-kilometre transport corridor and trade facilitation measures such as border management systems and construction of border posts. 

It will also provide basic socio-economic infrastructure for communities living along the corridor as well as emergency response measures in case of a disaster or catastrophe during the life of the project.

"The potential of Northeastern Kenya as a transit and regional trade facilitation zone is presently not fully exploited," Mr Josphat Sasia, the lender's Lead Transport Specialist and Task Team Leader said.

"This transformative project will integrate the region and enhance security, inclusion, and a sense of equity, which the communities living in this underserved region of Kenya have desired for a long time. Successful implementation of the project will require the support of the leadership and communities of the region."

The upgraded road, the fibre optic connections, and the provision of basic social services are expected to attract investments, facilitate regional and domestic trade, create jobs, and improve access to internet-based opportunities.

The Kenya-HoAGDP is expected to be completed in six years. The programme is the first in a series of projects aimed at supporting the development of regional transport corridors under the Horn of Africa Initiative.

"Regional integration is fundamental for the countries in the Horn of Africa to create jobs and reduce poverty in an inclusive and sustainable way. The World Bank is a founding partner of the new Horn of Africa Initiative, launched in 2019 by the participating countries to deepen their cooperation and deliver development results for their populations", says Deborah Wetzel, World Bank Director of Regional Integration for Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and Northern Africa.

The World Bank's International Development Association (IDA), established in 1960, helps the world's poorest countries by providing grants and low to zero-interest loans for projects and programmes that boost economic growth, reduce poverty, and improve poor people's lives.

IDA is one of the largest sources of assistance for the world's 76 poorest countries, 39 of which are in Africa.