Alfred Mutua is a man on the prowl. His projects under the slogan ‘maendeleo chap chap’, has handed him praises in and across the neighbouring counties. The 33 kilometres Makutano-Kaniathi road refurbished in a record three months has been the latest clincher in his array of projects.

All has not been rosy for the former government spokesman as pictures of a depleted ‘new road’ have left many questioning its state and the contractors behind its refurbishment. Not a month has passed since eleven contractors were handed the duties of refurbishing the road but its current state, if photos and videos going round the newsroom is to be considered, is a worrying state.

Despite the ‘claims’, the Machakos County Chief Engineer Mr Tom Omai has attributed the allegations to mare politics, a statement echoed by his governor.

 “For this area, we opted for surface dressing. It means we used bitumen and stone chips. It involves a thick layer of bitumen spread on the prepared surface and then a layer of chips covers the tar. It was then compressed with a roller. The bitumen will eventually rise and cover them”, Omai said of the state and ethics behind the road’s construction.

Kenya has lagged behind in development issues and different departments have had different reasons behind this-poor infrastructure being among the many reasons. Politics aside, we all agree that infrastructure plays a major role in a country’s development. Improving infrastructure in the country is one of the many areas where there are many outstanding-giving opportunities; infrastructure provides the foundation on which additional development can happen.

There is a great deal of private commercial investment and philanthropists of infrastructure development-they can’t be taken for granted in this sector. Though some oppose their initiatives across the nation, the philanthropists have made a big difference in the infrastructure arena through advocacy and by experimenting with new service models.

The World Bank spends about $15 billion per year on development.  The African Development Bank estimates that sub-Saharan Africa spends approximately $45 billion per year on infrastructure. This spending comes from local governments, foreign donors and the private sector.

The proportions remitted vary significantly depending on a specific country’s income level. Since so much money is involved, a small change in how it’s used can have a large impact on development. In Kenya, development funding has been devolved to the county governments and therefore their will towards development initiatives will always have a strong impact. It has been seen that most constituents prefer health and education funding to infrastructure.

What to do…
Many of infrastructure projects are under-funded in the country with most contractors still deploying the ancient way of thinking in construction.  Experimentation with various models for structuring in the new era of technology is required. Stakeholders in the sector should convene investors, government representatives and business leaders towards various initiatives for positive growth.

Advocating for improved regulation, providing subsidies based on output if projects are completed successfully rather than before it begins to avoid situation like those experienced in Machakos will be key. We could also consider public rankings of country, that way we motivate developers. Engaging with local communities to incorporate their interests into proposed infrastructure projects and giving them the right examples, can change the situation.

About the writer

Zax Oguda is a writer and blogger and a reader of the Kenya Engineer Magazine.

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Kenya Engineer is the definitive publication of Engineers in East Africa & beyond and the official journal of the Institution of Engineers of Kenya. Kenya Engineer has been in publication since 1972.

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