Major road in northern Kenya opens up trade with Ethiopia

MainpicThe construction of the Isiolo-Marsabit-Moyale road provides enormous economic potential to the East African region, once marginalised by governments. Mwangi Mumero reports

The completion of the 505 km Isiolo-Marsabit-Moyale road in Northern Kenya has fostered trade with Ethiopia, opening up the neglected region as well as boosting tourism and investment. The road forms part of the Great North Road that stretches from Namanga on the Kenya-Tanzania border, through Nairobi and up north to Moyale, on the Ethiopian border.

The road has become a major cog in the trading wheel with Ethiopia, South Sudan, Kenya and Tanzania. Funded by the Kenyan government, the African Development Bank and the European Union, the road has cost an estimated US$1.63bn, according to the Kenya Highways Authority.

“The road has had an impressive positive impact on the region’s security, having opened up an area that was previously viewed as ‘marginalized’. It will boost regional trade,” said James Macharia, Kenya’stransport cabinet secretary. Since Independence, more than 50 years ago, northern Kenya has been marginalized as governments viewed the arid and semi-arid region as of little economic value.

Insecurity caused by scarce resources, such as pasture and conflicts over livestock have also deepened its negative image.

However, discoveries of oil in the region, coupled with devolution of government services to the counties, have led to increased interest in marginal areas in the country.

The road is also part of the of the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport and Development Corridor (LAPSSET), a project that will involve the development of an 800 km road system, a standard gauge railway, a 1,300 km oil pipeline, an oil refinery and an airport.

This is part of the Lamu Port development – a joint venture by Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan that is expected to cost US$22.5bn.

The three countries will share the cost that will be undertaken through a Private Public Partnership.

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