US giant Bechtel has been signed on to build a major expressway in Kenya linking the port city of Mombasa to the capital Nairobi, cutting the journey from 10 hours to four.
The news comes a day ahead of tomorrow’s tense election in Kenya, with polls predicting a close race between four-time challenger Raila Odinga and incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Kenyans are praying for no repeat of the post-election ethnic violence that killed more than a thousand people in the country and displaced 650,000 ten years ago.
Construction of the 473-km-long, four-lane expressway is expected to start in 2018 and will allow uninterrupted speeds of 120km/h when finished in six years, according to the Kenya National Highways Authority, Kenyan broadcaster Capital FM reports today.
Kenya wants the expressway to get goods and people moving better. More than 90% of goods landing at Mombasa port are moved inland by road, and trucks now have to travel a crowded, single-carriageway (pictured) to Nairobi.
Expected to slash logistics costs, the transformative project will be financed with help from the US Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC).
The award to Bechtel is not a complete surprise. In September last year, the Export-Import Bank, OPIC and Bechtel teamed up to express an interest in building the expressway, and in June this year Bechtel opened an office in Nairobi to push for projects in east Africa.
It does, however, mark a change for the US, which has left state-backed infrastructure projects in Africa to China.
In 2013 the US Government Accountability Office warned Congress that China’s trade with Africa had far outstripped America’s thanks to China’s decades-long strategy of investing in African infrastructure.
Image: Wrecked vehicle on the road from Mombasa to Nairobi, 7 January 2017 (Philippe Demande/Dreamstime)