Kenyan President MwaiKibaki Addresses the UN General Assembly in September 2011(UN Photo/Lou Rouse)
NAIROBI --The face of Kenya is transforming as smooth asphalt highways and towering overpasses spring up across the country. The changes form a part of the Kenyan government’s elaborate and progressive development plan, Vision 2030. The plan, instituted by the government of H.E. President MwaiKibakion June 11, 2008 aims to transform Kenya into a globally competitive middle income country providing a high quality of life by the year 2030 by achieving and maintaining a GDP growth rate of 10% annually. Following the country’s precipitous GDP drop from 7.1% in 2007 to 1.6% in 2008 due to electoral upheaval, this is no small task. The monumental plan, consisting of over 120 flagship projects and costing 1.6 trillion Kenyan Shillings or approximately $18.6 billion US dollars has been divided organizationally into three developmental pillars supported by a grouping of enabler projects, as well as chronologically into series of five year Medium Term Plans or MTP’s.
The first MTP is the foundational phase for setting up the structures onto which continued development will be built, therefore infrastructure is crucial. The 2011 national budget included a 35.53% increase in infrastructure expenditures to “enhance the country’s competitiveness and hasten the realization to become an industrialized nation even sooner than 2030,” says the Chairman of The Vision 2030 Delivery Board Dr. James Mwangi.
Within the twenty one enabler projects are ten flagship infrastructure projects that aim to improve the speed, efficiency, and availability of transportation, electricity, and fiber optics technology throughout the country. Among these ambitious endeavors The Nairobi Commuter Rail and Mombasa-Malaba railway upgrade projects, which are expected to play a pivotal role in transforming Kenya, have been fast tracked by The Board. The projects, two of the largest in Vision 2030, are expected to diminish the cost of conducting business in Kenya and thus encourage the increased flow of commerce to and within the country.
Although the first MTP is almost one year shy of its completion, notable progress has been made. Seven of the ten infrastructure projects are underway. Kenyans are already feeling relief from the strain on their schedules and petrol budgets from the infamous Nairobi area traffic jams that long plagued intra-city and transit commuters. The Southern Bypass and Thika “Superhighway” are among the developments slashing commute times in some of the formerly most congested routes in the country.
Kenya is beginning to draw international accolades for its avant-garde advancements. On Monday September 19, 2011 at the South-South Awards Ceremony in New York City, H.E. President MwaiKibaki was awarded for his strides in physical and digital infrastructure. The Award was in recognition of his work on the Lamu Port and New Transport Corridor Development to Southern Sudan and Ethiopia (LAPSSET) Project. The comprehensive project includes the construction of: “a new road network, a railway line, oil refinery at Lamu, oil pipeline, Lamu Airport and free port at Lamu (Manda Bay) in addition to resort cities at the coast and in Isiolo”. The project will increase economic opportunities for coastal and neighboring areas of Kenya, improve the efficiency of transportation and commerce with neighboring South Sudan and Ethiopia, make the region more accessible to social development and ease the flow of goods at the existing Mombasa port, while providing an alternate route for goods in the event of an emergency.
Despite the advancements, Vision 2030 is not proceeding without a few speed bumps. According to the Vision 2030 Delivery Board (VDB) and Secretariat (VDS) report card released in 2010, goals in several areas were not met, including: the economy, tourism, agriculture, manufacturing, education, HIV prevalence, the environment, and job creation. The GDP growth target of 10% was among the marks missed. Though initially slated to have been achieved by 2012, according to Mugo Kibati, Director General of The VDS, The Secretariat now hopes to achieve this by 2015.Setbacks are attributed to “unavoidable challenges” including: the global economic crisis, “a dearth of funding for flagship projects, the suboptimal political and governance context and the ongoing shortage of reliable, cheaper and cleaner sources of energy,” says Mr. Kibati.
Despite these shortcomings, gender equality and electricity connectivity progress surpassed 2010 benchmarks. Goals in child mortality reduction, roads, energy, malaria reduction, police to population ratio and gender equality were achieved as scheduled. Mr. Kibati explained to Kenyans that, “the journey to 2030 will be more of a marathon than a sprint and will require endurance and resilience”. The overall vision is still on schedule, according to the Kenyan government, and Kenya is still maintaining a steady pace on the path to 2030.