Chinese contractors leave a mark on county and national roads

Since China Wu Yi (Kenya) Corporation, Sheng Li Construction Company and Sinohydro Company expanded Thika Superhighway nearly two decades ago, the rise of Chinese contactors has been unstoppable clinching nearly all roads, railways and energy tenders across Kenya.

Chinese contractors used the Kes27 billion Thika Superhighway project, which began in 2009 to showcase what they can deliver. The highway, totaling 50.4Km of multiple lanes was delivered in record time as part of the Kenya-China mega project undertaking.

And with their rise, hitherto big Kenyan contractors such as SS Mehta, Kirinyaga Construction and Put Sarajevo assumed lesser roles in the background. 

Kenya, the largest economy in the East African Community and a regional transport and technology hub, has seen a lot of Chinese investments. One of the leading adopters to Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Kenya has seen an influx of Chinese contractors, who have entrenched their presence, bringing along advanced experience, technology and equipment. Chinese contractors have worked closely with local partners, including county governments, to attain win-win outcomes.

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Construction of oil terminal

There has been an increase in Chinese investment in Kenya particularly in the transport sector where several Chinese companies have been involved in major roads such as the Thika Superhighway,  Kipevu Oil Terminal (KOT), Kipsigak-Serem-Shamakhokho in Rift Valley, Nyamasaria Interchange in Kisumu and Gambogi-Serem road in Western Kenya. 

In 2019, Embu County entered into an investment deal of Kes25.5 billion with Chinese engineering company, Shanxi Dikuang. They constructed an agricultural exhibition centre, value addition and a mineral resource exploration and processing unit. In addition, the company developed hospitality facilities, built support infrastructure at Mwea Game Reserve and set up a waste treatment plant.

China has also been of great influence to Kenya on the energy sector. China Communications Construction Company was involved in the construction of Kipevu Oil Terminal (KOT), and the nation now possesses a modern offshore oil facility at Mombasa port. This terminal enhances the energy transfer capacity of the port and powers not only Kenya but also the regional economy.

Road drainage system upgrades

POWERCHINA, a Chinese construction company won the bid for rural road upgrading project in West Pokot County. The project stretches a total length of 44 kilometres. The focus was on road construction, including standard pipe culverts and road drainage system upgrades. This was set to improve local traffic conditions and influence economic development along the route.

The Nairobi Western bypass highway is a road which connects Kikuyu town to Ruaka both in Kiambu County is another example of Chinese contractors presence in the devolved units. Construction of the bypass started in February 2019 under China Road and Bridge Corporation. This was after an agreement between the Chinese Construction firm and the County Government of Kiambu with funding from the Exim Bank of China.

The Chinese Government is also catalysing economic growth in Kilifi County. This is after the county welcomed plans by the Chinese to build a Park and industrial Museum in Kilifi in honour of one of its pioneer sailors, Zheng He, who landed in the seaside village over 600 years ago. The park and museum are set to enhance culture and tourism.

Affordable transport routes

In western Kenya, the Nyamasaria interchange in Kisumu and the road linking the lakeside town to Kakamega County was built by Chinese Overseas Engineering Group Company (COVEC). Some sections have been built by Jiangxi Zhongmei Engineering Construction Company, deeply changing the face of the commercial centres. The biggest beneficiaries of this infrastructure project are public buses, motorbike taxi operators and traders. 

Several kilometres away in Busia County, which neighbours Kakamega, construction of Sigiri bridge by COVEC has become a big blessing for Budalang’i residents. Sigiri Bridge has made transport from Bunyala north to south and vice versa much easier unlike before when people had to risk crossing River Nzoia in boats. Currently, Bunyala south and north are just one entity, yet before they appeared as separate areas.

China has immensely spearheaded Kenyan economic growth. This is seen through more affordable transport routes and mechanisms and at a pocket friendly price comparing earlier on.

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