Kenya’s northern half appears to have missed out on the infrastructure development wave other parts of the country experienced over the last decade.
The vast majority of the population in the counties in the north has no access to basic roads. A new report shows that less than three people out of 10 live within two kilometres of any form of road in all counties in Northern and Eastern regions.
Being kilometres away from the most basic of roads means that the residents have difficulties accessing amenities including hospitals or even sending distress calls.
This is in comparison to other regions, such as Central and Nyanza, where almost all residents (80 – 100 per cent) are within two kilometres of decent roads.
The State of Our Roads report by the Kenya Roads Board (KRB), which assessed investment and road conditions over a 10-year period since 2009, noted that road access indices in the northern and north eastern counties had access indices ranging between 11 per cent and 30 per cent.
“Counties like Nairobi have an access index of 95 per cent, which means that almost everybody in Nairobi has access to an all-weather road,” said KRB Executive Director Jacob Ruwa during the launch of the report yesterday.
“But you find marginalised areas with an access index of as low as 20 per cent, meaning that only 20 per cent of the general population in those counties live within two kilometres from an all weather road.”
“For the populace, access to facilities such as health, education and other social amenities becomes extremely difficult. The report will help government in determining where to put resources in terms of balancing out between where access is high and where access is needed.”
Counties along the Northern Corridor, according to the report, had the highest access indices ranging between 72 per cent and 100 per cent, while those on the lower side of the northern corridor and tending towards the coast recorded indices of 34 per cent and 64 per cent.
The report also noted that the country will need to invest Sh1 trillion between now and 2022 in road maintenance to guarantee that the newly built as well as old roads do not waste away.
The money might not be readily available and the government is evaluating new mechanisms to raise funds, which will include infrastructure bonds as well as new levies to grow the road maintenance kitty.
Road maintenance is currently funded through the road maintenance levy - which is charged at Sh18 per litre of fuel – diesel and super petrol.
KRB raises Sh60 billion annually from the fuel levy but this has not been adequate to cover all the needed maintenance work and has resulted in backlogs.
The largest share will go towards upgrading 6,700 kilometres of gravel roads to bitumen (Sh314 billion) while another Sh180 billion will be used on maintenance.
KRB said it is exploring other mechanisms to raise funds including infrastructure bonds and new levies for motorists.
“The government through KRB is considering alternative road maintenance financing mechanisms such as incorporating long-term infrastructure bonds, public private partnerships, and introduction of new road user charges such as motor vehicle inspection fees and annual motor vehicle licences,” said the report.