President Uhuru Kenyatta on Wednesday commissioned three key transport and trade infrastructure projects aimed at boosting the country’s economy.
The President kicked off his packed day with the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of the Nairobi Expressway, a 27 kilometre double decker highway that will run from Mlolongo to Westlands and is aimed at decongesting the busy Mombasa Road.
The Head of State then proceeded to commission Phase 2A of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) by taking a ride on the maiden passenger train on the new line from Nairobi to Suswa in Narok County.
Along the way, the President who was accompanied by First Lady Margaret Kenyatta made stopovers in Ongata Rongai, Ngong and Mai Mahiu where he commissioned train stations and addressed wananchi who turned out in large numbers to welcome him.
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At the Ngong SGR Station, the President said Kenya is investing in modern infrastructure so as to attract investors who will inturn create the much needed wealth and employment opportunities.
Along the way at Kilua, the President commissioned the Kimuka-Oloishoibor Water Project. The water project is a social responsibility initiative by Kenya Railways and the SGR contractor and is aimed at providing clean and safe water for area residents
At Mai Mahiu, where he delivered his main address, the President urged Kenyans to take advantage of the government’s milestone projects including SGR to invest and boost their economic well-being for a better Kenya
He said with the launch of Phase 2A of the SGR and the groundbreaking for the construction of the Inland Container Depot (ICD), the government had set the ball rolling for the development of a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Naivasha using government and private sector resources.
The President announced that Shs 6.9 billion had been secured for the construction of the ICD, a railway marshalling yard and a logistics zone by end of the year.
“The Government will also mobilize financial resources from its budget in addition to involvement of the private sector to fast track development of the industries within the Naivasha Special Economic Zones,” the President said.
He said other supporting infrastructure for the SEZ in the pipeline include the development of an interchange between SGR and the Metre Gauge Railways (MGR), trans-shipment facilities around Mai Mahiu with road and rail links to the Suswa-Longonot line.
“These investments will facilitate efficient transportation and handling of the cargo destined for areas beyond Naivasha such as Eldoret, Kisumu, Uganda and other hinterland markets.
“In addition, the Government has allocated land to neighbouring partner states for development of logistics facilities within this area,” President Kenyatta said.
He said infrastructure projects such roads and railways should not be viewed as profit making investments but as means of spurring socio-economic growth.
President Kenyatta pointed out that the first phase of the SGR had repositioned the port of Mombasa as strategic seaport in the region.
He said the commissioning of the 120 Kilometre Nairobi-Naivasha segment will spur economic activities in the catchment noting that train services will stimulate tourism in the Great Rift Valley.
“For a start, the planned Naivasha Special Economic Zone on 1,000 acres will focus on value addition for export market. This will effectively promote agriculture and employment creation in this region,” the President said.
Earlier while addressing wananchi after the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of the Nairobi expressway, President Kenyatta said the new road, which will take three years to complete, will help decongest the city.
“The construction of this road will first ensure our youth get employment opportunities. I have asked the contractor to make sure youth from Embakasi, Mlolongo and adjacent areas are given first priority before considering others,” the President said.
Noting that the country needs in excess of Shs 400 billion to improve the road infrastructure to required standards, the President said the government is exploring various options including mobilization of funds through Public Private Partnerships to bridge the financing gap.
The expressway which will take three years to complete, the President said is projected to pay for itself through a road tolling system.