A new eight-lane highway connecting Nairobi with the capital's north-eastern municipality of Thika, was inaugurated by the nation's president Mwai Kibaki on 9 November.
The 50km-road – Kenya’s first “superhighway” – was built by three Chinese construction companies and was financed jointly by the governments of Kenya and China, and the African Development Bank (AfDB).
The highway project began in 2009 and, on its recent completion, was eight months behind schedule. It cost a total of Sh31 billion ($36 million), running over its original budget by Sh4 billion, attributed to inflation and additional works.
The former four-lane carriageway was expanded to eight lanes and was built in three phases: Uhuru highway to Muthaiga roundabout; Muthaiga roundabout to Kenyatta University; and Kenyatta University to Thika. The three sections were constructed by China Wu Yi, Sinohydro and Sheng Li respectively.
The expanded road becomes an important transport corridor for Kenya and the surrounding region, linking Kenya’s northern commercial centres Isiolo, Marsabit, Moyale and Mandera to Nairobi, as well as providing better access between Ethiopia and Somalia in the north and Tanzania in the south.
The highway’s launch was marred by widespread looting of lamp posts, lights, guard rails and other street furniture, and was condemned by Kibaki in his inauguration address.
The head of the Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) Meshack Kidenda said that travel times from Thika to Nairobi have been reduced from about two hours to between 30 and 45 minutes.