Battle for Africa Continues

By Charles Wanguhu

A proposed toll road in Nairobi has fallen through after the World Bank withheld funding after claims that the project did not adhere to the Banks social and environmental safeguards, and Kenyan laws, including land acquisition.

Kenya was to work with Austrian construction firm Strabag AG which has previous experience of road construction especially interior of Kenya. This would have been a major diversion from the current status with the Chinese having majority of the major infrastructure projects including a 12-lane Highway – being constructed by three Chinese firms at a cost of Sh27 billion (approx USD 330 M). Had the project been successful this would have largely represented a shift to previous arrangements of a European company with World Bank funding.

In a not so surprising twist the Kenyan government has now invited the Chinese contractors to reignite their previous interest in the toll road. The Chinese government seems the more likely partner to take over the project, which they had initially expressed an interest. If successful in reaching agreement for the USD 826 Million highway it would represent another coup for the Chinese construction companies which they can add to vast array of projects including the proposed port at the coastal city of Lamu.

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