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Leveraging Transport Infrastructure for Trade and Economic Integration

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Arusha-Namanga-Athi River Road Project

Strategic Importance of Road Network

One only needs take the Nairobi-Arusha shuttle to realise the importance of the Arusha-Namanga-Ati River road project as a strategic road transportation hub in East Africa. It had formed part of the network of earth tracks that cris-crossed the vast plains on the borders between Kenya and Tanzania to develop into the modern highway that it has become, eagerly waiting to be dualised

The feasibility studies and design of the road commenced in May 2004 after a two-year period of funding negotiations and procurement. This phase was completed in September 2006. It comprises the 105-km Arusha–Namanga section in Tanzania which traverses flat and rolling terrain, including the Loliondo game control area. It was constructed to bitumen standard in 1967.

The road was narrow (about 5.5m on average) and deformed. Average speed was about 70 km per hour. Traffic on the Arusha side had shrunk from some 2,800 vehicles per day to 450 vehicles per day towards Namanga by 2009. It had far outlived it existence.

The Namanga–Athi River section in Kenya is 135 km long in rolling terrain. Having received recent interventions (re-carpeting in 1995), the section is fairer but still littered with deformations and potholes.

The section sustains quite heavy loading from the cement manufacturing and building industries in Athi River and Nairobi. Average speed is about 80 km/hr. Traffic is about 7,000 vehicles per day in Athi River and 1,000 vehicles per day in Namanga. Most of the traffic around Namanga branch off to the Amboseli Game Park.

Innovations and deliverables

On completion, the entire stretch will have a 7m wide carriageway and 2m wide shoulders on either side. This will improve the road capacity and enhance safety by affording safe refuge to broken down vehicles to park by the side. A single surface dressing layer of stone chippings will be provided on top of the running surface to improve skid resistance, especially during wet conditions when accidents are most prone to occur. The new alignment will conform to a design speed of 110 km per hour.

One of the key innovations on the new road is that on all major trading centres, service roads have been constructed to separate local and through traffic and thereby reducing accidents. In addition, non-motorized traffic facilities for pedestrians, cyclists and hand carts have been provided at the trading centres. Provisions have also been made for street lights at all urban centres to improve visibility especially of pedestrians at these locations.

Environmental and Social Impact Issues

A detailed Environmental and Social Impact Assessment Report (ESIA) for the project has been prepared. Very minimal displacement of persons is envisaged because the design follows the existing alignment. An Environmental and Social Management Plan (ESMP) has also been prepared to outline mitigation measures for the few negative impacts that could arise during project implementation. These measures would include the following among others:

  • Carrying out education and sensitization programs on health issues such as hygiene and STD/HIV/Aids to the community and  the contractors’ workforce;
  • Limiting the removal of vegetation cover and planting of trees along the road corridor;
  • Control of fuel wood use by contractors’ personnel;
  • Rehabilitation of used quarries through leveling and returning of topsoil;
  • Reduction of noxious emissions and noise by contractors’ plant;
  • A good traffic management plan that will ensure that deviation roads are not a hazard to the road users; and
  • Provision of boreholes, valley dams and water pans to the local communities


The African Development Bank (AfDB) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) are co-financing the road construction as a multinational project and have provided jointly, a loan totaling USD 156.3 million to cover civil works and construction supervision. AfDB is financing the Athi River–Namanga Section in Kenya for USD 93.1 million while JICA is financing the Arusha–Namanga Section in Tanzania for USD 63.2 million.

The two governments are providing counterpart funds to the tune of about USD 8 million to augment the loans.

Construction on the Athi River–Namanga Section (Kenya) commenced in November 2007 while on the Arusha–Namanga Section (Tanzania) works started in September 2008. Construction on both sections is expected to be completed in July 2011.

Project Positive Impacts

The road is of strategic importance to the region and forms part of the priority Corridor No. 5 of the EAC Regional Roads Network which spans from Tunduma in southern Tanzania to Moyale in northern Kenya, and onward to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  The designation of five priority corridors is a result of collaborative effort between the EAC, the Partner States and donors active in the regions transport sector. 

On completion, the road project will facilitate movement of traffic from Zambia, through Tanzania, Kenya to Ethiopia as well as Uganda and Sudan. The road will also enhance import/export traffic from the port of Mombasa, which is the more convenient port for northern Tanzania on account of distance. The road is also part of the tourist circuit serving the national parks of Amboseli and Tsavo in Kenya and Manyara, Ngorongoro and Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

The significance of the road as a regional road network is in line with the development priorities of the two Governments and the African Development Bank’s strategy for support to multinational programs which enhance regional integration among African states. 

One Stop Border Post (OSBP)-Namanga

The border crossing at Namanga town is critical for trade between Tanzania and Kenya. There has been an annualized growth of 21% from 1999 to 2003, where 41% of Kenyan exports and 20% of Tanzanian exports pass through Namanga. The “one-stop border post” at Namanga was approved in the works contract’s provisional sums as a result of excessive delays experienced in cargo clearance at border points between Tanzania and Kenya. The OSBP is also a concept by the East African Community (EAC) in an effort to foster intra-regional trade and reduce truckers’ time spent at the border, inherently reducing the risks of dalliances. Delays are caused mainly by poor institutional management systems, poor physical infrastructure and services required to support cross-border cargo management. The Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is financing construction and providing technical as-assistance.

Project Benefits—Employment Opportunities for Women

Part of the AfDB transport sector goal and project objective is to reduce poverty among people living within the zone of influence. Employment creation is a major benefit. Up to the end of September, there were approximately 1005 employees among which 936 were local staff and of this number, around 7% or 69 were female. AfDB encourages more efforts by the contractor to recruit more women to better spread the benefits equally among men and women. In addition, several women are employed on the work sites as lab technicians, surveyors, or operators and not just unskilled labour.

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