The political direction the coastal region will take in the 2022 realignments will depend largely on how the Jubilee administration delivers on key infrastructural promises, including the sea ports of Lamu, Mombasa and Shimoni as well as a number of road projects.
Some of the major projects include the completion of the Dongo Kundu Southern Bypass, the modernisation of the Shimoni port, dualling of the Mombasa-Mtwapa road, the expansion of the Mzima Springs water pipeline, the construction of a railway line from Mombasa to Lamu and the rehabilitation of the road linking the region to Garissa, through Garsen.
When, in September last year, coastal leaders met with President Uhuru Kenyatta, they asked him to complete all infrastructure projects in the region before he exits office in 2022.
And now, two years before the President’s second and final term expires, all eyes are on those projects, which many believe will catalyse development and spur equitable allocation of resources.
The problems that afflict the Coast have for decades remained the same or a variation of the same – high poverty levels, poor infrastructural development, political marginalisation and the collapse of manufacturing and value addition sectors.
It is against this backdrop that the six coastal governors proposed last year the creation of an Upper Coast Region political bloc, comprising the counties of Kilifi, Lamu and Tana River; and the Lower Coast Region for the counties of Taita-Taveta, Mombasa and Kwale.
The proposal banks on the hope that larger consolidations will automatically lead to better bargaining power at the resource allocation table, but how they will be managed, coupled with the political undercurrents that have muffled dialogue in the region for decades, stand in the way of that dream.
And so when the local leadership sits down in the coming days to hold a consultative meeting with the National Development Implementation Communication Cabinet Committee chaired by Interior minister Fred Matiang’i, they will be hoping to front a united push for the completion of these multibillion-shilling projects.
Of particular concern and possibly the biggest immediate benefit to coastal residents, is the Mzima Springs II water project as it promises to end rampant water shortage in the counties of Mombasa, Kilifi and some parts of Kwale.
Domiciled in Taita-Taveta, Mzima Springs supplies billions of litres of water to Mombasa and Kilifi every year. But as populations have expanded, demand has soared, making supply erratic and grossly unreliable.
The national government wants to modernise and expand the ageing pipeline at a cost of Sh42 billion, and so important is the project to the region that Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho last year petitioned President Kenyatta to prioritise expenditure on it.
The need is urgent. Desperate, even. Mombasa requires approximately 150 million litres of water daily, and the demand is expected to increase to 187 million liters per day next year.
“The negotiation of the financing agreement of Mzima Springs II is still ongoing at the Cabinet level between the National Treasury and China Exim Bank,” Coast Water Development Authority CEO Jacob Kimutai told the Sunday Nation this week. “Once it’s concluded we shall start implementing the project.”
Last October, the Exim Bank board approved the project’s proposal and what is remaining is the Attorney-General and Treasury to complete work on the finer details of the contract, including the commitment by the government on what percentage they would contribute to the project.
Away from water, the region is also awaiting the actualisation of the Sh37 billion Dongo Kundu Special Economic Zone, which was thrown in as an alternative to the lost port business after the Standard Gauge Railway line moved a lot of port operations into the hinterland.
The Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) will construct a small port at Dongo Kundu while the Kenya National Highway Authority (KeNHA) will build the road connecting the SEZ.
In March, National Treasury CS Ukur Yatani signed the loan agreement with Japan for the development of Phase I of Mombasa Special Economic Zone (SEZ). The signing of the deal to construct the industrial and commercial hub is good news to coastal residents, whose fortunes, especially in Mombasa, have dwindled since the relocation of port services.
“The first phase of the project is to offer a facelift to the coastal city in terms of infrastructure and business, and is scheduled to be ready by June 2022,” Mr Yatani said.
Already, the first phase of the Dongo Kundu Road, named the Mombasa Southern Bypass, and the SGR, which are major infrastructural projects in the local grand scheme of things, have been completed, while the construction of the second and third phases of Dongo Kundu Road is expected to start any time after land owners are compensated.
Once the project is complete, it is expected it will also boost the tourism sector in South Coast, which has since independence relied on the erratic ferry service at the Likoni crossing, and the small airstrip in Ukunda.
“This is a good connection between the port of Mombasa and the Dongo Kundu special economic zone,” said KeNHA special projects deputy director Kung’u Ndung’u said, adding that so far, the government has paid 90 per cent of the 600 persons affected, who have received Sh450 million of the Sh517 million set aside for compensation.
Within the Mombasa Urban Roads Improvement programme, construction of part of the Sh6.5 billion Kwa Jomvu-Makupa Causeway road will be completed in two months, says KeNHA.
Outside of the port city, commissioning of the Lamu port is also being awaited, given the expected economic windfall it will bring to the Kilifi, Lamu and Tana River counties, which will not only host the port but also provide the supporting infrastructure.
Lamu is also set to benefit from a Standard Gauge Railway line running from Mombasa, and this, says Transport CS James Macharia, will change the landscape of the area.
The region is also getting a new Sh10.8 billion highway linking it to Garrisa, through Garsen, with the road expected to be complete next year.
“Apart from insecurity, inconsistent cash flow on the part of the government was also a challenge as the contractor sometimes goes without funds for over three months in a row,” the project’s resident engineer and consultant Willis Ingari told the Sunday Nation. “We’re confident that the entire project will be completed by June next year, provided the government ensures steady and timely payment to the contractor.”
Kilifi will benefit from a dual highway connecting its main hub of Malindi to Mombasa, under funding from the African Development Bank (AfDB), which has already approved the Sh38 billion financing proposal after the European Union (EU) gave a grant of Sh3 billion. Kenya is expected to provide Sh16 billion for the whole project, which has previously been met with delays over a number of issues, including lack of funds.
Phase one of the transnational road will include the Mombasa-Mtwapa-Kilifi section, and will include a 13.5-kilometre, four-lane dualcarriage from Mombasa to Mtwapa. Another 40 kilometres of road will start from Mtwapa to Kwa Kadzengo, and onwards to Kilifi.
In Kwale, Governor Salim Mvurya has over time pressed for the completion of the construction of the Shimoni Port.
“The Kanana-Shimoni road is now complete and will act as a link to the port, which we still are pleading that it be hastened,” said Mr Mvurya.
In September, the county scored big after KPA agreed to have it exclusively manage the Sh20 billion port, which will be built through a public-private partnership.
KPA has already carried out a feasibility study for the port and is awaiting approval from Treasury for the tendering of the project. Once complete, the port will be the country’s largest fish handling facility. The port will also have a cold storage and value addition facilities including fish processing plants.