Kenya is seeking alternative routes for the Northern Corridor road network from Nairobi to Mau Summit through Nakuru as traders raise concerns over the expected increase in the cost of doing business in the East African region as the highway will be subject to state tolling.
Kenya’s Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Transport, Infrastructure, Housing and Urban Development Mwangi Maringa told The EastAfrican that the tolled road network will be optional, and motorists who cannot afford the pricing will be provided with alternative routes. Maringa, however, did not specify the alternative route for the 181-kilometre road from Rironi (Nairobi) to Mau Summit through Nakuru.
“You only toll a road where there are options or alternative routes because it is meant to be an ‘optional’ thing,” the minister said.
He defended the decision to toll the highway by enumerating the benefits, which he said included efficient and fast movement of people and goods, reduction of wear and tear on vehicles, reduction of fuel consumption and increased carrying capacity for motorists.
“We are trying to get into a model where investments are self-financing,” he said.
The Nairobi-Nakuru-Mau Summit Highway is part of the Northern Corridor that is used in the transport of goods and passengers from the port of Mombasa through Nairobi to counties in western Kenya and Uganda, South Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi and eastern DRC.
The Kenya Association of Manufacturers noted that despite the benefits of tolled roads, the government’s plan to levy the Nairobi-Mau Summit Highway will lead to a high cost of doing business.
“Transport and logistics play a critical role in the manufacturing sector. It is critical to ensure that such costs are reduced to enhance business competitiveness both locally and regionally,” Phyllis Wakiaga, the association’s chief executive told The EastAfrican.
The Kenya Private Sector Alliance called on the government to ensure availability of alternative well-maintained roads for those not willing to pay for long-distance toll roads.
The operations of the Northern Corridor Transport System are governed by the Northern Corridor Transit and Transport Agreement, a multilateral treaty that facilitates transit cargo between the Kenyan Port of Mombasa and the hinterland of member states such as Burundi, the DRC, Rwanda, Uganda and South Sudan.
According to the agreement, road transport shall take place in accordance with principles of equal treatment, non-discrimination, reciprocity and sound competition.
The agreement also provides that no duties, taxes, or charges — provisional or municipal — shall be levied on traffic in transit, except for administrative charges applicable on traffic in the territories of the contracting parties, including charges levied on the use of road tolls, bridges, tunnels, and ferries, warehousing and parking fees.