Africa Brief

Infrastructure regulation in Africa: Kenya

Kenya, one of the continent’s fastest-emerging markets, is rapidly seeking to improve its infrastructure in keeping with its economic development and growing population and urbanisation. At present its transport, ICT, healthcare, water and power infrastructure are unable to cope with the increases. Ambitious new transport and power projects reveal a forward-looking administration, but the challenges across all sectors are pronounced, and will require commitment and focus from all stakeholders.

Roads

The death toll on Kenya’s roads has climbed upwards of 3,000 a year, largely the result of runaway road accidents. Motorbike accidents are a particularly large source of fatalities. Other problems in road transport include fake documents and non-motorised vehicles, such as the popular boda-boda taxis (a type of bicycle). Kenya’s rate of road deaths is amongst the highest in the world.

In an effort to improve national road safety and compliance with the law, the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) was created in accordance with the National Transport and Safety Authority Act of 2012. The NTSA’s primary commission is to implement a road safety programme that will curtail the death toll. Drunk Driving Awareness and Safety First Campaigns are two of the initiatives presently underway.

Rail

Last year Kenya’s Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure put forward a bill proposing that the road and rail sectors have a single regulator. “We don’t have a railways regulator and it is important to task my ministry to combine its roads oversight roles with the railways,” said Transport Cabinet Secretary Michael Kamau. An independent regulator is needed to oversee both the Kenya Railways Corporation (KRC) and Rift Valley Railways (RVR).

A new standard gauge railway is in the process of being built, and this will be run by KRC, whilst RVR will operate the old, narrow gauge tracks. The new railway being built will connect Mombasa to Nairobi and Kampala, thereby helping to alleviate the transport overload tearing up the country’s roads. Cyris Njiru, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Transport, says, “We cannot continue destroying our roads. Trucks are used at the last point between the container depot and the factory and even for that section they should not be over 28 tonnes. We have asked RVR to triple its carrying capacity.”

An airport commuter rail project is also underway, which involves building a state-of-the-art rail station at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) that will connect it with the city of Nairobi. New stations have also been built or are in the process of being built at Nairobi Railway Station, Makadara, Soykimau and Imara Daima in a bid to lessen road congestion within the city and shorten commuter transits.

Healthcare

In accordance with Kenya’s new Constitution, signed into law on 27 August 2010, responsibility for health service delivery was taken away from the central government and given over to the 47 newly created counties. At present the biggest health challenges are HIV/Aids, reproductive health, malaria, tuberculosis, road accidents, and child health.

The country’s health system now functions in a step-wise manner, beginning local and then progressing outwards as and when needed. The order of recourse flows as follows, from first port of call onwards: dispensaries and private clinics, health centres, sub-district hospitals and nursing homes, district and private hospitals, provincial hospitals, and finally national hospitals. NGOs and church-operated clinics also fulfil a valuable role in terms of catering to under-serviced populations.

ICT

The Communication Commission of Kenya (CCK), established in 1998, is an independent body responsible for regulating Kenya’s telecommunications sector. Up until its establishment the only provider for the country was the Kenya Posts and Telecommunication Corporation (KPTC), and this only provided basic telecoms services. After the Kenya Telecommunications Act of 1998, when the sector was liberalised, the first company to set up shop was Telkom Kenya, created in 1999.

Today, Kenya has four mobile phone operators servicing its population: Safaricom, Airtel, Orange, and Yu. As of March 2012, there were 29.2 million mobile phone subscribers[i], of which 19.1 million subscribe to Safaricom, by far the country’s largest service provider[ii].

Electricity

The high cost of electricity and frequent power outages have plagued businesses and homeowners in Kenya for a long time. Beginning in December 2013, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) began cutting the unit cost of electricity. According to the commission, commercial and private consumers alike will enjoy an average savings rate of 11.2 percent in the 2014/15 fiscal year and an average of 6.4 percent in the following year.

Kenya’s authorities intend to build up the country’s power infrastructure through geothermal and wind power generators, with the hope of adding 5,000 megawatts to the national grid by 2016.

Water

WASREB, Kenya’s water services regulatory board, in partnership with the Kenya Water and Sanitation Services Improvement Project (WASSIP) and the Water and Sanitation Programme, is seeking to remedy the country’s water shortage through infrastructure investment and development as well as greater social accountability. The trio is busy establishing community-based Water Action Groups and are using ICT to develop a means of feedback whereby WASREB can be informed of local consumption for the sake of accountability and planning.

The country’s steady growth curve means that investments are pouring in, and the momentum is there for substantial improvements to be made in all areas of its infrastructure, provided there is transparency and accountability, good management of resources, and nationwide community buy-in.


David Okwara
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