Uhuru's Sh1.4tr legacy projects to rejuvenate Coast economy

A section of the Dongo Kundu bypass which is under construction.[Omondi Onyango,Standard]

The Jubilee government is in a race to complete multi-billion shilling projects at the Coast, as President Uhuru Kenyatta cements his legacy ahead of his exit in 2022. According to a report compiled by the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government, more than 450 mega projects have either been completed or are underway at the Coast.

In the past week, President Uhuru Kenyatta has toured ongoing projects in the region. Last Tuesday he issued 2,169 title deeds to residents of Rabai in Kilifi County.

“The residents of Rabai will be worth Sh4.2 billion,” the President said as he vowed to fulfill his promise to solve the historical land problem at the Coast before his term ends next year.

According to Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi, the nine years of Jubilee administration have seen an huge increase in the number of residents of the coastal region that now have title deeds.

“For 50 years, the Coast received only 230,000 title deeds, but from 2013 to date, the Coast has received 500,000 title deeds,” said Kingi, who added that Kilifi was the biggest beneficiary.

In Kilifi, according to Kingi, between 1963 and 2012, the county received 52,000 title deeds while from 2013 to date it has received 100,000 title deeds.

Other than the squatter problem, Uhuru’s administration is also implementing huge infrastructure projects whose cost is estimated to be Sh1.4 trillion.

“The government has invested Sh1.4 trillion in 450 projects in the Coast. Once they come to fruition they will change the face of the region and entire Kenya,” said Government Spokesman Cyrus Oguna.

The projects referred to include the Sh40 billion three berths at the Lamu Port. The first berth is complete while the second and the third will be completed in November.

Others are the Sh10.8 billion Garsen-Lamu road, Sh30 billion second container terminal at the port of Mombasa, the Sh40 billion new Kipevu oil terminal, the Sh1.9 billion Likoni footbridge, Sh2 billion new ferries at the Likoni channel and a Sh4.5 billion bridge at the Makupa causeway.

Others are the Sh40 billion Dongo Kundu projects that include a Sh28 billion bridge, Mwache and Makamini dams in Kwale County worth Sh20 billion and Sh1.2 billion respectively, and the Sh6.1 billion Miritini-Mariakani dual carriageway.

The government has also invested Sh3 billion in developing the Dongo Kundu special economic zone in Mombasa. Uhuru recently launched a Sh10 billion programme to support fishing in the region’s counties. Most of the projects will be completed by mid-2022.

Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho, through his Chief of Staff Job Tumbo, said the infrastructure projects would catalyze the region’s economic growth. “With infrastructure comes investment and fast movement of goods and services. We are also seeing a deliberate move to tap into the blue economy, that will create thousands of jobs for our people,” said Mr Tumbo, who is also acting County Secretary.

He said the construction of the Makupa crossing bridge would end the traffic jam problem and facilitate trade through the Port of Mombasa. “These projects will help the whole country and even the region in terms of trade,” he said.

Solomon Wao, the Managing Director of Skyline Shipping and Logistics, said the expansion of the roads, port and airports would facilitate easy movement to and from the port of Mombasa, and make the port attractive to importers and those in exports in the region and from other parts of the world.

“With perfect roads connecting a sea port of Mombasa will ensure faster movement of goods and services. The construction of the Sh1 billion cruise ship terminal at the port is a plus for the tourism sector,” said Wao.

Naima Twahir, a fisherman at Old Town, Mombasa, said construction of the Sh1 billion fisheries complex that will have a cold storage facility would help address post harvest losses. “The losses incurred because we do not have a cold storage facility are enormous. Once it is complete we will be able to keep our products as we look for buyers. The roads will enable us to access markets,” said Ms Twahir, who is also secretary of Old Town Beach Management Units.

Yesterday, Mombasa Senator Mohamed Faki, however said the mega projects had not translated to direct gains for locals, since they were yet to create meaningful employment or expanded businesses.

“We expected an expansion of Mombasa port through the construction of the multi-billion shilling second container terminal to create jobs for locals, but this has not happened. Businesses have shrunk after the introduction of the Standard Gauge Railway, as cargo is lifted to the Naivasha inland container depot,” he said.

The senator said infrastructure projects should have been matched with investments that create employment.

On the Liwatoni footbridge, Faki said many residents were forced to start work or open businesses late. “The bridge has not helped much because residents spend hours waiting for the Likoni Ferry to allow them to pass. The bridge is too long and compulsory use during peak hours has inconvenienced many residents,” he said.

Chairman of the Muslims for Human Rights (Muhuri) Khalef Khalifa, who has criticised the SGR, called for fairness in its use, saying it must compete with other modes of transport. “Containers are forced to use the SGR, which is illegal and the court has pronounced so,” he said.

Harriet Muganda, secretary of the Okoa Mombasa movement, said at least four bus companies had closed down because of unfair competition from SGR. “The remaining bus companies are operating at 30 per cent capacity. They have not been allowed to operate at night, yet they carry a few passengers owing to Covid-19 measures, while SGR is doing good business,” she argued.

This month Joho told Senate the county had lost millions in revenue since  operationalisation of the SGR in 2018.

Oguna said it was time for Coast residents, especially the youth, to take advantage of the national government projects to start businesses.

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