Kenya’s economy has been growing at a steady rate for nearly two decades, but some of the projects that have given the economy impetus have been subject of harsh criticism.
Dr Muiru Ngugi outlines 10 reasons why it is quite difficult to please, rather satisfy Kenyans.
1. A road build in the rural areas is criticised as a useless project.
“There are no vehicles to justify the building of that road,” people say. “It is building roads for idle goats,” they add.
2. Upgrading a busy road in the Nairobi metropolitan area is criticised as an example of misplaced priority. What did Jirongo say about Thika Superhighway?
3. Building roads in other parts of Kenya is neglecting the Mt Kenya region and building roads in the Mt Kenya region is skewed allocation of development largess.
4. Building an expressway to ease Nairobi’s impossible traffic jams is wrong priority while doing nothing is failing to realise the real costs of traffic jams in terms of wasted (wo)man hours, fuel, wear and tear on vehicles, stress, road rage, etc.
5. Hiving off a small section of a game park to build a vital infrastructure while leaving 99 percent of the area of a game park intact is environmental degradation and disrespect for the animals who live there while doing nothing is neglecting infrastructural development.
6. Using a tiny little part of a public space to build a flyover is an insensitive land grab while failing to expand the road is lack of taste, lack of planning, love of narrow roads, neglecting motorists in traffic jams and inability to design good roads.
7. Not upgrading the over 100-year old, 19th century meter gauge railway is evidence of wrong priorities and neglecting aging infrastructure, exposing passengers and goods to rickety bridges while building the bigger capacity standard gauge railway is an unnecessary expense for a railway to nowhere.
8. Building an additional terminal and runway at JKIA is a waste of money, while not upgrading the airport is allowing Kenya to be overtaken, and replaced, as a transportation hub by smalls countries like Rwanda.
9. Building a second port in Lamu is a waste of money. Meanwhile, complaints will be heard that Mombasa is too congested and can’t handle large ships and the government is doing nothing about it. Doing nothing is seen as discrimination, giving impetus to claims that “Pwani si Kenya.”
10. Upgrading port facilities in Kisumu is a political investment favouring a region, the so-called “demonstration dividend,” while doing nothing is neglecting “opposition areas,” allowing seaweed to colonize Lake Victoria and abandoning the dream of East African integration.
In conclusion, real Kenyans want to eat their cake and still have it.
Dr Muiru Ngugi is a lecturer at the School of Journalism, University of Nairobi.