Wednesday, July 26, 2017


Plans to build the Isiolo to Mandera road are at an advanced stage with the government seeking to borrow Sh50 billion from the World Bank to finance the project.

The upgrade of the 740-kilometre road, which has been on the cards for decades, will ease transport to the arid north eastern Kenya that has remained inaccessible.

The Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) last week invited bidders for the various components of the project to submit their expressions of interest together with summaries of their capability.

Isolated economically

“The Republic of Kenya has applied for financing in the amount of $ 500 million (Sh50 billion) equivalent from the World Bank (International Development Association (IDA) toward the cost of the North Eastern Transport Improvement Project (NETIP),” KeNHA said in the advertisement.

The project represents the government’s plan to open up north eastern Kenya which has remained isolated economically from the rest of the country due to the lack of roads and other infrastructure.

The road is currently characterised by deep gullies and potholes and requires an off-road vehicle to navigate. Travelling to Mandera from Nairobi by bus takes about two days and costs Sh3,500. During rainy seasons the journey can take up to two weeks as roads become impassable with buses and trucks carrying relief food getting stuck.

Mandera, Wajir and Isiolo counties, which the road traverses, have vast pasture lands where pastoralists keep millions of animals. The economic potential of pastoralism has remained stunted by lack of a proper road to take products to the market.

“The road infrastructure is in a poor state and communication networks are lacking in many areas. This means that households receive low prices for the items that they sell and pay high prices for purchases,” states the 2015 Contingency Plan by Mandera County.

State House in June indicated that the road project will include multiple components to create an economic corridor that will lift the area residents’ prospects.

“This intervention is conceived as a development corridor and as such fibre optic cables will be provided to ensure the region’s digital connection,” State House said in a statement.
“In addition, service centres (e.g. Huduma Centres, information centres for pastoralists etc) will be built in market towns along the road to connect the population to government services.”

KeNHA has listed four main components of the project, including road construction works for 450 kilometres. The other components include studies and design of the corridor and construction of a fibre optic cable network.

The entire stretch from Isiolo to Mandera is 740km long but part of it had earlier been tendered.

President Uhuru Kenyatta in May commissioned the tarmacking of the 135km Elwak-Rhamu road in Mandera County at a cost Sh2.5 billion.

The road to Mandera will be the second major corridor in northern Kenya after the Isiolo-Moyale road which is nearly complete.

This road stretches all the way to the Ethiopian border.