Interview: Michael Kamau
What opportunities does the Public-Private Partnership Act present to potential international and domestic investors?
MICHAEL KAMAU: The Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure was the first public entity to incorporate the private sector in a structured manner. When we formed the Kenya Roads Board in 1999, the private sector was already working hand-in-hand with the government. We have to keep in mind that we cannot rely exclusively on government spending for infrastructure, as this cannot solely address the country’s needs and aspirations for Vision 2030. By attracting money from the private sector, we are generating wealth that can push the country forward by creating employment and providing economic growth, which will benefit every sector of the economy.
What are the most pressing needs for Kenya’s rural road networks and how can the government ensure needs are adequately addressed?
KAMAU: The creation of new roads in every county can be overwhelming, but it is important to build infrastructure at a pace that allows the development of sufficient local content. We are determined to incorporate this local content in all infrastructure projects, with a special consideration for the needs of youth and women in terms of employment in rural areas. As for devolution, it is at the heart of our citizens’ concerns. Local governments can now address and focus on the specific needs of a given region. Therefore, we can talk of creating hubs, such as Mombasa, which is set to become a major centre with road, maritime, rail and air links.
To what extent is the standard-gauge railway expected to lower costs of doing business?
KAMAU: Rail accounts for less than 4% of cargo traffic, but it is already reducing pressure on the road network. An averages of around 18,000 trucks in 12 hours that are crossing that bridge both ways. We want to reach an average of 20% of traffic between Mombasa and Nairobi being carried out by rail. Even without expanding the road networks, the new railway will not only reduce road traffic, but will help to boost tourism, especially in the cruise ship segment. The new railway will also contribute to road safety, provide faster connections between the port and the capital, and create a development corridor along the rail line. We expect it to contribute roughly 1.5% to Kenya’s GDP.
What can be done to further streamline public transport companies in Kenya and how will this positively affect the economy?
KAMAU: Currently, there are about 800,000 matatus, or privately owned minibuses, operating throughout the country. Before the new public transport regulation forcing companies to have at least 30 vehicles, we used to deal with each of them separately. We have reduced our workload by 100, allowing lower operating costs for the public transport system. Eventually we want these companies to grow and operate their own repair shops and have their own fuelling stations, thereby employing more people and generating further growth.
What measures can be taken to reduce overall traffic and congestion in and around Nairobi?
KAMAU: Just 10 years ago, we had buses with a high passenger capacity of 100 riders each. We replaced theses buses with matatus, which can carry only 14 people each. According to the new standards, we will allow standing passengers as long as there is at least one hanging strap available for every standing passenger. Instead of licensing new matatus, we are encouraging the introduction of 28-seat buses, and steadily increasing this to 34 seats and so on. Once the big buses are gradually reintroduced, it will solve most of the problems of congestion in Nairobi without the need to further expand the road network.
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