Kenya’s urban infrastructure is crucial if the country is to deliver sustained economic growth to the fast growing population, a new report indicates. According to the World Bank Group’s Kenya Urbanisation Review survey, how county governments manage and create new infrastructure will not only determine the survival of existing urban centres but also the emergence of new ones.
“How urban areas are governed will likely determine how sustainable Kenya’s growth will prove under fundamentally changed governance arrangements brought about by devolution,” the report said.
The survey showed that of all infrastructure projects the Northern Corridor is the most important to the country’s urbanisation. The corridor connects Mombasa port to landlocked Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Congo. It consists of an intricate rail, road and lake transport network that connects from Mombasa through Nairobi to Malaba with a branch line to Kisumu and beyond.
According to the review 76 per cent of the urban population lives in urban centres located 15 kilometres from the corridor. A further nine per cent reside in urban centres not more than 35 kilometres from the corridor and only less than 14 per cent live in remote towns farther away.
According to the report, the country’s urban system and transport infrastructure are concentrated in the southern and western areas where there are dense populations and areas of high urbanisation and agricultural potential.
“The concentration of the population along the northern corridor has led to the development of three important hubs in the coastal area, around Nairobi and the western hub that includes Kisumu, Eldoret and Kericho,” the report said.
Four major urban centres are located along historical infrastructure, mainly along the railway line.
“The high concentrations indicate strong path dependencies despite a steep fall in rail passenger and freight volumes in past decades,” the report showed.
With the ongoing construction of the standard gauge railway, which slightly deviates from the old railway line, an emergence of new urban centres is expected. The new track is costing Kenya about $4 billion (Sh404 billion), mostly funded by a loan from the Chinese Exim Bank, and construction is due to be completed next year.The 120km Naivasha route will cost Sh150 billion and its construction by a Chinese firm will start in September.
Kenya Railways has already ordered 56 trains — eight shunting, five passenger and 43 cargo locomotive — which will remove thousands of trucks and buses from the Mombasa-Nairobi road ahead of the June 2017 completion date.