Multi-billion shilling Nairobi-Mombasa expressway plans still on

The construction of the multi-billion-shilling, 473-kilometre, high-speed expressway between Nairobi and Mombasa is still underway but could be delayed by two years, the government has indicated.

Implementation of the highway expansion project first unveiled in September 2016, that is part of Kenya’s Vision 2030 development programme, will drag on for several months because the government is yet to agree on the mode of funding.

There has been debate on whether the dual carriageway should be built with a loan, or through a public-private partnership (PPP).

In September 2016, Kenya signed a letter of interest with the US government’s development finance institution, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), to finance the project at an estimated cost of Sh230 billion, with part of the funds coming from the US Export Credit Agencies (ECAs).

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Immediately after in the same month, the US firm also signed a letter of intent with Bechtel, an engineering and construction company, to support an upgrade of the project.

A year later, the Kenya National Highways Authority (KeHNA) awarded the design-build contract for the highway expansion to US-based engineering, procurement and construction company Bechtel in August 2017.

Yesterday, Transport, Infrastructure and Housing Cabinet secretary James Macharia said the plans were still underway.

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“We are discussing details of the project, it might delay by a year or two, but we will put up the road for better connectivity,” said Mr Macharia.

United States Ambassador Kyle McCarter said contrary to recent press reports, the highway was an investment that will not burden Kenyans with unsustainable debt.

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“To the contrary, this project by a world-class US company will provide the best engineered solutions for Kenya’s infrastructure needs,” said McCarter.

There have been allegations that the Chinese had declared interest in construction of the dual carriageway, but KeHNA director-general, Eng Peter Mundinia, said he had not received any expression of interest from Chinese firms.

Chinese interest

“Nobody other than the Americans have shown interest as far as I know,” said Mr Mundinia.

Two years ago, Bechtel  announced on its website that it had been selected by KeHNA to build the 473-kilometre high-speed expressway between Nairobi and Mombasa.

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“Bechtel has been working with the Government of Kenya for over two years to develop this strategic infrastructure priority project, which will support and unlock significant growth in Kenya and the region,” Craig Albert, president of Bechtel’s global infrastructure business had written.

The dual carriageway will feature four lanes, which will be expandable to six lanes reconstructed to bituminous standards.

The US and UK export credit agencies such as the US Export-Import Bank, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and UK Export Finance, are expected to provide financing support

Under the initial plan, construction of the upgrades was expected to start in 2018 and continue through 2023. But Macharia said there would slight delays as they deliberate on how to implement the project.

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Kyle McCarterNairobi-Mombasa expresswayKenha