Kenya is set to boost its public transportation system with a $60 million investment from the United States’ Millennium Change Corporation.
The funds will be used to acquire electric buses for Line 2 of Nairobi’s Bus Rapid Transit system, in an effort to tackle traffic congestion in the city.
The agreement was signed between Kenyan President William Ruto and MCC CEO Alice Albright during a meeting in New York. President Ruto emphasised the importance of improving mobility in Nairobi, where the population swells to 5 million during the day and 4 million at night. With approximately 1 million people commuting to the city every day, the existing infrastructure faces significant challenges.
The Bus Rapid Transit system plays a crucial role in addressing these challenges. Alongside this initiative, Kenya is also developing a rail system that will encompass 38 stations, with 28 of them already completed.
These transportation improvements are part of the Kenya Urban Mobility and Growth Threshold Program, which aims to ease congestion and enhance transport efficiency within the Nairobi Metropolitan Area.
The MCC, a US government body established in 2004, partners with the world’s poorest countries to promote democratic governance, economic freedom, and investments in their populations. In December 2019, Kenya was chosen as eligible to develop its second threshold program, after years of collaboration on project design.
The partnership with MCC is a significant milestone for Kenya’s transportation sector. The acquisition of electric buses will not only help reduce the country’s carbon footprint but also provide commuters with a more sustainable and efficient mode of transportation.
Electric buses have become increasingly popular worldwide due to their environmental benefits, including reduced emissions and noise pollution.
Furthermore, the investment in public transportation will have a positive impact on the overall economy. Improved mobility will facilitate the movement of goods and services, boosting trade and productivity. Additionally, the new transportation infrastructure will create job opportunities and stimulate economic growth in the region.
The threshold program aims to support Kenya in addressing the issue of limited connectivity in urban areas, which is a major hurdle to achieving inclusive economic growth.
According to a statement by the MCC and the Government of Kenya, an analysis revealed that urban areas in Kenya, particularly Nairobi, have not experienced significant productivity gains typically associated with urbanisation. This can be attributed to inadequate planning and a lack of prioritisation in land use and transportation investments. These factors have led to fragmentation and hindered productivity for manufacturing firms in Nairobi as well as opportunities for workers.
The program consists of four projects: the Integrated Transport Planning Project, the First and Last Mile Connections Project, the Detailed Land Use Project, and the Blended Finance for Bus Rapid Transit Project.
In late July, Kipchumba Murkomen, Cabinet Secretary for Roads and Transport, announced that the government was working towards resuming construction of the stalled BRT project within two months. Murkomen stated that discussions were underway with the Treasury to secure funds for completing the project by December 2024. He emphasised prompt settlement of pending bills owed to contractors as crucial for timely progress.
By implementing these initiatives, it is anticipated that urban connectivity in Kenya will improve significantly, leading to greater productivity and enhanced access to economic opportunities for both businesses and individuals alike.
In 2022, the Nairobi Metropolitan Area Transport Authority had plans to initiate five Bus Rapid Transit corridors. Unfortunately, this project encountered a setback due to delays in the release of funds by the Treasury.
NAMATA Director General Francis Gitau expressed his disappointment in a previous interview, citing that the required Ksh.3 billion out of the total Ksh.5.6 billion needed for completion was not disbursed as expected. The BRT system, which was slated to commence operations in June 2022, was consequently put on hold.