Infrastructure development is now accepted as among the salient legacies for President Kibaki’s tenure. Infrastructure projects stride all sectors of the Kenyan economy including IT communication, roads, airports, energy and ports. Other areas like modern rail systems and a new Lamu corridor infrastructure are in the initial implementation stages. It is the infrastructure that will mostly catalyse the country’s economic and social development going forward.
The neighboring EAC countries have not been left behind as they have also been developing their infrastructure. However, it is how well EAC infrastructure development is synchronised that will influence speed and effectiveness of economic integration and trade in the region.
This was the key theme of the Regional Infrastructure Conference held in Nairobi last week. From the proceedings of the conference, it was apparent that a lot remains to be done to achieve joint master planning of infrastructure development in the EAC.
It was stated at the conference that transportation accounts for about 45 per cent of overall production costs for goods in the region compared with 15 per cent in western economies. This is a critical piece of information which we should seriously interrogate to provide answers on how the region can plan to improve its transportation infrastructure for increased efficiency and productivity to achieve competitiveness.
It is also important to accept that new and modern infrastructure systems may not in themselves necessarily increase productivity unless we in addition address associated non-tariff barriers that hinder efficiency.
Road transportation productivity is a function of number of hours in a day and in the week that a vehicle is gainfully driving on the road carrying cargo. To reduce unit transport costs for goods, road transportation should essentially run around the clock.
The challenge to road, port and customs authorities in the EAC is to ensure that we minimise the number of hours trucks are kept waiting or idly parked at the ports and highways. This is important if we are to gain value on huge roads and ports infrastructure investments.