Infrastructure: Where Is The Human Face In Kenya’s Mega Road Expansion Projects?

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Thika road. Image from https://hivisasa.com/posts/cs-explains-why-kenyan-firms-are-ignored-in-mega-projects

Key economic blueprints for Kenya such as the Vision 2030 recognizes the value of infrastructure to economic development leading the country’s leadership to heavily invest in massive infrastructural projects in the last decade. While mega projects such as roads are critical pillars for economic growth, they have continuously lacked a human face posing risks as well as violations to the very people it is intended to serve.

Part of the missing links in these infrastructural projects can be attributed to the lack of meaningful participation in road design projects. Whereas there is a constitutional requirement for public participation and more so with persons affected by the projects, it is largely cosmetic with a glaring weak chain in responding to the suggestions raised by varied stakeholders. The value of public participation should cease to be just a constitutional tick-box but should truly matter and not appear rushed and choreographed in order to fit prior approved designs.  The place and strategy of inviting the public and other stakeholders should also respond to varied existential circumstances and target the widest reach.

These infrastructural projects have also proven to be disruptive to livelihoods. Small scale enterprises located in close proximity to roads have fallen victims to these developments leaving the owners with no means of livelihoods. There is a need to anticipate the social costs of such interventions and put in place alternative spaces for business or ensure the roads co-exist with businesses. This should be the province of relevant government authorities including public participation. Human rights concerns must occupy an integral space in designing public infrastructure projects.

There is a great need for safety awareness on new infrastructure projects such as roads. For instance, pedestrians and other road users should be sensitized on safety concerns. This safety awareness should include a change of attitudes on only using designated crossing spaces such as pedestrian crossing while using available footbridges.  This change of attitude would be useful to change the narratives around fatalities that result from new infrastructure projects such as roads.

Public safety campaigns ought to be persuasive and as such, they should be accompanied by multiple communication strategies that again match the demographics of varied audiences. Part of the public safety drives should be reinforced by new or existing laws in order to have some punitive actions in cases of non- compliance. A human face is therefore paramount in the conception, design, construction and use of the mega roads being developed around the country and not merely focusing on the macroeconomic outlooks impacted by new infrastructure projects.

It is for these reasons and many more, that the Utafiti Sera House on Urban Governance and City Transformation (a house that brings together various stakeholders) coordinated by Pamoja Trust in collaboration with Partnership for African Social and Governance Research (PASGR), proposes an effective stakeholder engagement framework that links stakeholders at macro, meso and micro levels with outcomes that include coordinated approach, project ownership, buy-in and collaboration among other important features that will lead to a successful, Effective, efficient and impactful project.

This moves away from common practice where citizens’ futures seem to lie in the hands of forces over which they have little control. More information on the engagement framework and Utafiti sera House conversation can be followed at www.pamojatrust.org

 By John Mwangi

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