Friday, January 25, 2013

Build roads to breathe new life into economy, Raila tells African nations

Prime Minister Raila Odinga on arrival at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport from Switzerland, where he attended World Economic Forum in Davos. PHOTO/NICHOLAS NTHENGE /PMPS.   NATION

By CHARLES WOKABI [email protected] and PMPS

Prime Minister Raila Odinga has called on African countries to prioritise infrastructure in their economic growth plans.

Addressing a session on Accelerating Infrastructure Development at this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Friday, Mr Odinga noted that interconnecting the continent with modern road and railway networks will go a long way in boosting international trade and other aspects of economic development.

Africa’s development, Mr Odinga said, is being weighed down by poor infrastructure since the continent is not well covered by roads, rail and electricity.

“Infrastructure will open up and expand the internal African markets, which will then be the source of demand for maintaining high growth on the continent,” the PM said in the session chaired by former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Kenya has been on the forefront in promoting infrastructural development with major projects such as the Sh1.2 trillion Lamu Port and Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport corridor.

The project involves construction of an oil pipeline, road and railway network connecting Kenya’s coastal town of Lamu to Ethiopia and South Sudan. It also features three resort cities in Lamu, Isiolo and around Lake Turkana.

Billed as the largest business venture in Africa, the project is expected to open up Northern Kenya to investment and link the country to new markets with over 100 million people.

Once completed, the project will raise Kenya’s economic growth by over ten per cent a year.

“Kenya is leading the pack in beginning to fill this gap.

We have completed a 12-lane superhighway and other modern road networks. We have commissioned a 280MW geothermal plant and embarked on a 300MW wind power project.

“The construction of an ICT town, Silicon Savanna, is well underway. But it is still not enough,” the prime minister said.

Growing demand

The technology city is planned to leverage on the growing demand for the Information and Communication Technology services across the region and globally and create over 200,000 jobs.

Mr Odinga’s sentiments echoed the president’s speech on Wednesday when he officially launched the construction of Sh800 billion Konza Techno City which promises lucrative opportunities to investors in Kenya and the international community.

President Kibaki’s asked investors to complete the current projects before launching new ones.

In Switzerland, Mr Odinga also called on investment on renewable energy, particularly the untapped solar energy in Kenya.