A new Chinese-built expressway in the Kenyan capital Nairobi will help boost the economy of the African nation, Kenya's Cabinet Secretary for transportation and infrastructure, James Wainaina Macharia, said on Saturday.
The expressway opened to traffic for trial runs on Saturday and is expected to increase local employment, ease traffic jams, and bring a raft of economic benefits to the notoriously congested city.
Macharia hailed the expressway as one of the 'best pieces of infrastructure' ever built on the African continent.
"This road will have a very, very big impact in terms of mobility of Kenyans, visitors, businessmen, businesswomen, tourists. This is one of the best pieces of infrastructure ever done in Africa. In fact, it’s the longest expressway in Africa. So we are very proud today (Saturday) to come to witness the start of the trial run and monitor to make sure that indeed the expressway will be operated seamlessly and to a very high standard," he said.
The expressway stretches 27 kilometres through the heart of Nairobi, connecting Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to Nairobi's Central Business District, the National Museum and the Presidential Palace.
More than 10,000 people have already registered to use the expressway, with an average of 800 people registering every day.
"Definitely, I will use it often. It's convenient, and hopefully, it will remain like that for the rest of its lifetime," said one Nairobi motorist.
The expressway is already creating direct employment opportunities for Nairobi's workers, with employees at the state-of-the-art expressway monitoring centre welcoming the opportunity to learn new technologies and software that keep the road running smoothly.
"We are doing the traffic monitoring and coping with the automatic detection system. We are able to detect if there is any congestion in the expressway if there is any pedestrian crossing if there is any vehicle reversing in the expressway. And thus, we are able to reach out to the responsible department to handle the abnormality on the expressway. We provide our country with a very smart, smooth and safe and speedy travel experience. We are able to learn a lot of software here as we learnt about the software which enables the cameras. Also, in the monitoring centre, I've learnt some Chinese words," said Martha, an employee working at the expressway monitoring centre.
The 73.5 billion shillings (about $648 million) road is expected to cut travel time from the south to the west of Nairobi to about 20 minutes from two hours currently during peak time.
The expressway was financed and built by China Road and Bridge Corporation under a public-private partnership model. Full-scale construction of the infrastructure project began in September 2020 and was completed a year ahead of schedule.
Building the expressway created more than 6,000 direct jobs, benefiting 200 sub-contractors and hundreds of other local suppliers of building materials such as steel, sand, cement and ballast.