What are the economic benefits of Thika superhighway?

NAIROBIAN SHOP

XN IRAKI

Thika superhighway is nearing completion with the few completed sections making one feel proud to be a Kenyan. Some of the scientific principles that we only read about in books like "banking" have been fully utilised. Driving on this road in the morning just before sunrise has an eerie feeling that potential of this country has barely been exploited. One feels this is the highway into the golden future.

Our neighbouring countries have even visited the road to learn one or two tricks. But what are the real economic benefits of building this super highway? Should those whose buildings were brought down regret?

First benefit is not monetary, it is psychic. The fact that we can build a super highway that closely resembles those in developed countries is an indicator that we can do greater things to transform this nation. We are almost 50, which is a watershed into old age. By building such a highway, we are renewing this country, making it feel young again.

ECONOMY’S PULSE

If we can build such a road, we can solve other national problems, from making the deserts bloom to taming hunger. The superhighway is wide and should reflect our new way of thinking, broadly and boldly. Digression; why are we complaining about GMO maize yet we teach science in schools?

The other benefits can be monetised. Starting with time saved in travelling time not just for those living in Thika but further in Garissa, Embu, Nyeri and further north. The bottleneck that extends from Muthaiga round about to Nairobi’s central business district (CBD) is costly to everyone not just those who live near the city. The time saved is money saved and increases the pulse of the economy.

The superhighway if extended farther should open the vast northern Kenya and its wealth. Tourism is one such potential.

Deserts are some of the most spectacular sites to visit, beyond beaches and Masai Mara. A drive through the deserts of California, Nevada and Arizona testify to that fact. When shall our Safari rallies include circuits through Chalbi desert? The arid north (and Somalia) are our last frontiers, and should be places of hope and great prospects. By using roads we can loop these regions into the national economic system.

My dream is that one day this superhighway shall extend north to Ethiopia and Eritrea into the Red Sea. I have a dream that one day my grandchildren will drive from Nairobi or from any other part of the country for a visit to Saudi Arabia after a ferry across the Red Sea.

Observers also suggest that this superhighway could provide Nairobi with "other bedrooms" beyond Githurai and Ongata Rongai. With the collapse of distance it seems possible to commute from as far as Kilimambogo or Muranga town to CBD. This is likely to tame the rents as workers in Nairobi get alternative accommodation.

It would be interesting to see how the landlords around the current bedrooms will react. Could they undergo gentrification to attract the renters on flight to outlying areas? That is already happening in Ngara and River Road areas. Could the opposite happen as the once prestigious residencies like Lavington are abandoned by the affluent into far away suburbs like Tigoni because of highways? In the US, highways contributed to decay of the inner cities as the affluent moved to the suburbs, courtesy of highways.

Investors and entrepreneurs including industrialists will benefit by relocation along Thika superhighway. They have easier access to the markets and space for expansion.

Speculators are also likely to make money by selling land near the superhighway or accessible from the highway.

Building the highway has created lots of jobs for the construction workers and created lots of demands for goods and services. The Sh27 billion road has a multiplier effect on the economy. In most countries such major projects are used as economic stimuli to uplift the economy during recessions.

Thika superhighway should be replicated to other towns with bypasses to ensure shorter travelling time. After all it is not cars that travel on the road, it people and their ideas which must be tested by new places. Highways connect people and their ideas.

To fully exploit the benefits of the superhighway, it must be integrated into other modes of transport like rail, air and water to create competition and innovations so that transportation cost does not drain resources from other sectors.

NATIONAL BORDERS

The superhighway, when complete epitomises the endless economic prospects of the next generation. The highway will lead us to so many places; in the same new bolder and broader thinking will provide the next generation with a lot of prospects beyond the counties and national borders.

Finally, it seems the Kibaki administration will be defined by infrastructure particularly roads, the same way Eisenhower administration is defined by highway system in the US.

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