Investment in adequate infrastructure is a social justice issue

Graders leveling Kutus -Mjini road in Mwea. [Muriukiii Mugo, Standard]

Only 20 per cent of our country has reasonable investment in infrastructure.

We all evolved from bushmen, hunters and gatherers. We then settled largely along rivers. This preceded agriculture initially subsistence and domestication of animals.

With this, it was possible to produce food and exchange the surplus with what we did not have in barter trade. Then mechanisation and commercial enterprises yielded today’s complex economies.  

The complex world of transportation, information and communication revolves around production and transportation of goods from one point to another. This requires infrastructure, which makes a whole lot of difference for communities.

Roads, airports, seaports, rail, housing, hospitals, schools, social halls, sanitation and such define some of the vital infrastructure necessary for modern living. It follows then, that the absence or presence of the essential infrastructure is a big contributor to meaningful life.

When available, it makes movement easier and people can move their goods to markets for trade. Hospitals are accessible and in instances of disaster or emergencies evacuation is easier.

Compare that to a situation where there is no infrastructure. You will have produce that you cannot take to the market, it will spoil and lose value. You will be sick and you cannot be taken to the hospital in time. Even when resources are available, they cannot be extracted because of accessibility.

This is where investment in infrastructure becomes a matter of social justice. Communities can be condemned to underdevelopment because they do not have the required infrastructure.

We need a master plan for infrastructure development that covers all the areas in the country. Basic infrastructure is required in all parts of the country.  Innovative project financing models have to be innovated to support infrastructure.

Road network

We have about 247,000km road network and about 25,000km is paved. However, and especially the northern part of Kenya, you will take several days to travel by road. This is currently being addressed by Kenya National Highways Authority and it will open up these areas.

We need more airstrips and airports. Our main airports in Mombasa, Nairobi, Kisumu and Eldoret  are few and there is need to build more in Marsabit, Mandera, Turkana as well as additional airstrips.

Our total rail network is 2,778 kilometres metre gauge rail (MGR) and 622 kilometers of standard gauge rail (SGR). Kenya Railways plans to construct additional 2,795 kilometres of SGR and 88 kilometres of MGR. We need tributaries feeding Mandera, Turkana, Marsabit so that the entire country is connected by rail network.

In addition, the government’s Affordable Housing Programme seeks to address the housing deficit. It is a great idea and should help close this gap.

However, housing should be developed where we have proper supporting infrastructure like water, sanitation, roads and social amenities. The houses should not be seen in isolation. They must be a part of a jigsaw fit, which are healthy, sustainable communities.

Areas historically lacking essential infrastructure must now be our focus to address the social injustice.

- The writer is a practicing civil structural engineer based in Nairobi