left corner left corner
China Daily Website  

Hurdles mount for major ring

Updated: 2015-01-16 08:36
By Philip Etyang (China Daily Africa)

Major bypass project in Kenya delayed by late payments to contractors and environmental objections

A Chinese company contracted by the Kenya National Highways Authority in July 2012 to construct a ring of roads in Nairobi says work on the last phase of the controversial project is 70 percent complete.

China Road and Bridge Corp, a subsidiary of China Communications Construction Co, is constructing the final bypass, a stretch of 28.6 kilometers, in southern Nairobi. The total cost of the three-bypass project is Sh41.3 billion ($452.4 million) with the Southern Bypass alone costing Sh17 billion.

Hurdles mount for major ring

The construction projects will involve experts from China Road and Bridge Corp training locals in building roads. Photos provided to China Daily

Hurdles mount for major ring

Once complete, the 98-km bypass project will construct three roads - named the Northern, Southern and Eastern bypasses - around Nairobi to help ease the capital's traffic jams.

The three linked roads will form a ring around Nairobi's central business district and its suburbs. Motorists in transit from the northern, southern and eastern parts of Nairobi will be the greatest beneficiaries since they will not have to cross through the city. This will also serve to reduce traffic entering the city.

The Export-Import Bank of China is financing 85 percent of the Southern Bypass project and the Kenyan government is financing the remaining 15 percent.

Yu Fujia, chief engineer for the Southern Bypass project, says he faced numerous challenges during the project.

"The Nairobi National Park is our main challenge at the moment. And the Kenyan government, which is our employer, has delayed payments to private developers, making it difficult to complete the roads."

The nonprofit East African Wildlife Society and the Africa Network For Animal Welfare, together with environmental activist Paula Kahumbu, took the National Environment Management Authority and the Kenya National Highways Authority to court in February 2013 over construction of a 5-km stretch of the Southern Bypass that runs through the Nairobi National Park.

Hurdles mount for major ring

Both the National Environment Management Authority and the Kenya National Highways Authority tried to have the case thrown out, saying the complainants were bent on frustrating government projects. But a four-judge bench for the National Environment Tribunal ruled unanimously that construction of the road across the park would violate the city's environmental standards.

The court then ordered the Ministry of Roads to cease building the section of the Southern Bypass - along Mombasa Road - that runs through the park.

Despite the delay in payments from the Kenyan government, Yu says, China Road and Bridge Corp is committed to finishing the project by the scheduled completion date of July 31. He adds that the Kenya National Highways Authority has been supportive of the company despite the challenges.

Yu says the Southern Bypass employs 46 Chinese and 1,234 locals, which he says is in line with the company's policy of having a 1:30 ratio between Chinese and local workers.

China Road and Bridge Corp recently brought in 5,000 Chinese workers to work with locals in building a standard-gauge railway line from Mombasa to Nairobi. The $8.1 billion line is one of the largest projects in the country's history and will also involve experts from China Road and Bridge Corp training locals to build roads.

Kenyan trainees will first be taught lessons on safety, quality and basic skills before they are trained to construct roads, at which time work on the railway line project will begin.

"The equipment, the trucks and earthmovers are all from China. They are, however, serviced and maintained here by local mechanics who are working under one Chinese supervisor," Yu says.

China Road and Bridge Corp last month won a prestigious award in China for its quality construction of the Northern and Eastern bypasses in Nairobi. It won the silver medal in the 2013-14 National High-Quality Project Award ceremony hosted by the China Association of Construction Enterprise Management in Beijing.

Yu says the company last month marked 30 years of operations in Kenya after opening its Nairobi office in 1984 with a celebration that rewarded longstanding and dedicated employees.

According to the company's website, several high-ranking officials attended the event in Nairobi, including Tian Lin, charge d'affaires at the Chinese embassy in Nairobi; Han Chunlin, economic and commercial counselor at the Chinese embassy in Nairobi; CRBC vice-president Sun Liqiang; and Li Qiang, general manager for the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway Project.

Others in attendance included JM. Kianga, chairman of the Kenya Railway Bureau, and David Muchilwa, general manager for special projects at the Kenya National Highways Authority.

Since setting up its office in Kenya, China Road and Bridge Corp has been involved in several major projects in Kenya, including the construction of the Saos-Tenges Baringo Road, the New Garsen Causeway, the Gamboi-Serem Road, the Hola-Garsen-Malindi Road and rehabilitation of the Voi-Bachuma Road.

After the Southern Bypass is completed, attention will shift to construction of the Western Bypass, though construction details have not been finalized, and construction of the railway line from Kenya's port city of Mombasa to Nairobi.

For China Daily

(China Daily Africa Weekly 01/16/2015 page21)

  • Group a building block for Africa

    An unusually heavy downpour hit Durban for two days before the BRICS summit's debut on African soil, but interest for a better platform for emerging markets were still sparked at the summit.