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Improvements to the Arusha-Namanga-Athi-River Road have been officially unveiled following the road’s US$560mn upgrade
An official opening ceremony was attended by the East African Community’s (EAC) Heads of State.
The improvements, which started three years ago, involved the re-carpeting and widening of the road, the construction of drainage systems and bridges and various other developments.
The road connects the Kenya’s industrial town of Athi River, located around 30 km from Nairobi, to Tanzania’s city of Arusha.
The road passes through the town of Namanga on the Kenya-Tanzania border.
Athi River is home to five cement plants that produce over 50 per cent of total regional cement output.
The road is therefore a vital artery for regional trade between Kenya and Tanzania and to the Great Lakes regions of Rwanda and Burundi.
Goods and passengers from Dar es Salaam destined to the Lake Victoria regions of Musoma and Mwanza have also extensively used the road rather than the longer route through central Tanzania.
“EAC regional trade bloc thrives on the ability of its people to move and work within the region freely,” said Kenya’s president and the outgoing chairman of the EAC Heads of State, Mwai Kibaki.
“There is a need to accelerate regional infrastructure, especially in energy, roads, railway to improve the lives of our people.”
The improvement was partly funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB), which contributed around $300mn, and is part of the EAC Secretariat’s overall infrastructure development.
Better roads in the EAC are seen as critical as intra-EAC trade has reportedly doubled from $2.2bn in 2005 to $4.1bn in 2010, with most of the cargo passing through the numerous interstate road networks.
However, Ugandan leader, Yoweri Museveni, recently highlighted that it costs around $4,000 to transport a 40-ft container from Hong Kong to Mombasa in Kenya by ship but $10,000 to move the same container from Mombasa to Bujumbura, Burundi, by road.
He added that the use of trucks rather than trains dramatically increased the cost of transportation and that rail remained the most viable form of transportation, even with the sizeable investments currently being put into road construction.