Untold story: How Nairobi Expressway was conceived over dinner

President Kenyatta was so excited, that same night, he directed the Treasury CS to board a plane to China ASAP to join the discussion.

President Uhuru Kenyatta toasting to happy life at a past event.

Transport CS James Macharia has narrated an interesting story of how the idea to construct the Nairobi Expressway was conceived.

In a candid interview aired by Citizen TV on Monday, December 27, CS Macharia that the plan was mooted in 2019 when Kenya sent a delegation to China to finalise the SGR project.

We arrived at Beijing Airport and we were taken to Beijing city. It took about 25 minutes because the highway had six lanes on both sides and when we got to dinner, we asked our hosts how did you do this road? It’s fantastic,” he recalled.

Kenya’s delegation asked whether a similar project can be done in Nairobi and the company reflected on it and made a decision the same night.

The president of the company had ever been stuck in a traffic jam for two and a half hours from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to CBD and so it did not require a lot of convincing for him to know that we have a problem here in terms of traffic, meaning that problem can be converted into an opportunity and so we agreed the same night that they look into it,” CS Macharia said.

That same night, he called President Uhuru Kenyatta who was so excited to hear the idea that he directed Henry Rotich, who was the Treasury CS at the time, to board a plane to China immediately and join the discussion.

I recall I did call the president the same evening and the president was actually quite excited about the idea and the same night he called the Finance CS, Rotich, and asked them to board a plane to China and join us so that we could discuss now the financial modalities of how the Public-Private-Partnership could be done,” he said.

Two weeks later, the company sent officers to conduct a census of the cars using Mombasa Road, which came to about 30,000 vehicles.

With those numbers, they confirmed that indeed it could be a viable project and so the company started looking for finances and by October 2019 construction was commissioned by the president.

The story is a testament to CS Macharia’s view that Chinese companies are preferred due to how fast they are able to engage.

He contrasted the Nairobi Expressway to the Rironi-Mau Summit project under a European consortium, which is yet to be finalised since starting negotiations in 2016.

First of all, they are very fast in terms of making decisions, in terms of implementation of projects they are very very fast and you just need to see some of the projects we are doing like the expressway was launched by the president in October 2019.

At the same time, we were discussing with another consortium, European consortium, to do the Rironi - Mau Summit. We started negotiations in September 2016. We've not finished negotiations since 2016. Five years now… in the meantime, you're about to finish the Expressway,” CS Macharia said.

The Nairobi Expressway is set for launch in March 2022.

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