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AfDB-Funded Thika Superhighway: A Masterpiece for East Africa “A National Pride” - President Mwai Kibaki


The 50-km Nairobi–Thika superhighway, described by Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki as a source of “national pride” during its launch on November 9, covers an area that lies within the Nairobi Metropolitan and Central Province, including large sections of the City and Thika district. The road traverses Kasarani, Githurai, Ruiru, Juja and ends at Thika River Bridge in Thika district. The total population living along the road is approximately 1 million.

The African Development Bank (AfDB) has contributed the largest share of the US $360 million total cost.

Works on the previous highways have involved construction of additional lanes and the removal of roundabouts at several locations replaced by interchanges.

AfDB financing: US $180 million

The construction between downtown Nairobi and Kenyatta University have been financed by the AfDB and the Kenyan Government to the tune of US $260 million. The AfDB financed the project with a package of US $180 million through its concessional window, the African Development Fund, including a loan of US $175 million (civil works and related consultancy services) and a grant worth US $5 million (feasibility study and detailed design of a mass rapid-transit system for the Nairobi Metropolitan area). The Kenyan Government contributed US $80 million towards the road project.

The EximBank of China financed US $100 million in upgrades between Kenyatta University and Thika.

The road is located at the very heart of Kenya’s economic engine. The Nairobi Metropolitan Area is the most dynamic locomotive of growth and employment creation in Kenya accounting for more than 30 per cent of the national GDP.

The main features and economic activities along the route are human settlements with urban characteristics, various businesses, light manufacturing, educational institutions, and some farming activities. There is a thriving informal sector (Jua kali) specializing in metalwork, carpentry, vehicle repairs, dressmaking and construction. Other noticeable land uses include cut-flower growing, tea and coffee farming, as well as livestock for meat and dairy.

A wide array of beneficiaries

Beneficiaries of the highway are predominantly people living along the route engaged in various economic activities. More importantly, it serves commuters who travel daily to work in secondary and tertiary sectors within Nairobi city’s Central Business District (CBD).

Some 100,000 people residing in Kasarani, Kiambu and Thika are salaried workers, while another 125,000 work in the informal sector, a majority of whom commute to Nairobi.

Other distinct groups of commuters are students, health patients, shoppers and traders (formal and informal). With a secondary school enrolment rate of over 60 per cent, at least 12,000 students benefit from the road. In addition, two public universities are established along the road, namely Kenyatta University and Jomo Kenyatta University of Agricultural Technology (JKUAT). Between these two universities, approximately 12,000 students attend part-time programs (49 per cent of whom are women) and will greatly benefit from an efficient transportation system.

Transport operators, especially passenger vehicles, trucks transporting light and heavy goods (domestic and regional to Ethiopia and Somalia), and non-motorized road users are among the beneficiaries of the project. Other key beneficiaries include horticultural and dairy farmers along the road who require an efficient and reliable transportation system.

Important gender dimension

A large proportion of beneficiaries of the road project are women who sell food products sourced from Thika and beyond. In addition, operators in the roadside markets including the Maasai market at Globe Cinema are women.

Other users include local administrations, and social service providers (NGO/CBOs) working in districts of Murang’a, Maragwa, Kirinyaga, Embu, Meru and Nyeri.

The new superhighway has started to yield impressive and visible results. Commuters are enjoying faster, more reliable, comfortable and more affordable journeys. The time taken to traverse Thika town and Nairobi has dropped from two to three hours to 30-45 minutes.

Details of work

  • AfDB and Kenyan Government:
    • Connector running from Museum Hill interchange through Forest Road to Pangani interchange: the works involved the widening of Forest Road to six lanes from four, widening of Museum Hill road to six lanes and provision of flyover on Limuru road;
    • Connector running from University Way through Globe Cinema flyover to end at Muthaiga: the works involved widening of University Way to eight lanes from six, constructing a four-lane flyover across Globe roundabout, widening of Murang’a road to six lanes, an underpass, overpass and footbridge at Pangani, and an interchange to replace Muthaiga roundabout;
    • Connector running from Haile Selassie Avenue, Race Course Road and Ring Road Ngara through Uhuru Highway to Panagani interchange.
  • EximBank of China: continuation of the highway from Kenyatta University to Thika.

Long-standing AfDB-Kenya cooperation

The AfDB Group commenced operations in Kenya in 1967. It has invested almost US $3 billion primarily on concessionary terms to some 82 operations in almost all sectors of the economy, with a high predominance of infrastructure (transport, energy, water and sanitation).

The AfDB’s total commitment in physical infrastructure in Kenya today stands at some 60 per cent of its total commitments to Kenya with the transport sector representing some 41 per cent and 19 per cent for the energy sector.

AfDB is Kenya’s leading development partner in the road sector with operations totalling more than US $1 billion.


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