Thika Road is a major road in Kenya linking the city of Nairobi and Thika town. The road has been under construction for the last five years to expand it to a superhighway consisting of an eight lanes highway. Thika road connects more than 500,000 people from Thika and all the estates along it to Nairobi.
The Nairobi-Thika road used to be characterized by traffic that increased with time as a result of urban population along the route. Before the development, the physical condition of the road and limited capacity were associated with long queues of cars, significant travel delays, high fuel consumption, high vehicle emission as well as massive inconveniences. Most people complained about the wastage of time and resources by the people commuting to the city and other destinations. For someone travelling to the city it would take them close to two hours to travel less than 20 kilometers. It was worse for the people on transit to other parts of the city; they had to wake up in the wee hours of the morning so as to get to work and places of businesses on time. This always made the affected people tired and fatigued. Road accidents were also common especially with long trailer drivers who found it difficult to go up the hills and even go down the hills, and motor vehicles whose drivers thought the road too narrow.
All this has changed since the construction of the Thika superhighway which is still underway. Gone are the days when people would wake up so early and get to work fatigued due to traffic, getting to town now takes 20-30 minutes. The road does not have potholes and eight lanes is a clear contrast from the narrow road it once was. The hills no longer exist – it is a smooth ride to work and business (see small video below).
Benefits of the construction of the superhighway
- Commuters and business persons ferrying goods to the city and other destinations have something to smile about; before the cost to the city were too high and even higher when it rained because of the traffic, the prices kept fluctuating and it was never clear of the amount to be charged at a particular period. Now, the journey to the city has been cut by more than half in terms of hours and the cost has also reduced significantly.
- With good infrastructure comes development, and this has been the case in the areas where Thika superhighway passes. From lighting of the streets, to improved security, employment and business ventures, the residence of areas around Thika superhighway do not have a lot to complain about now.
- Business has also boomed, from small businesses to large businesses. With the installation of street lights and improved security, the street vendors can work until late and are even thinking of working 24 hours. This has increased their profit, their livelihood has improved, and they are able to take their children to school, pay the rent and provide for their families.
Anne Wanjiru Muraya and Mary Wambui Ngima are two business ladies who have borrowed money through KEEF on the MYC4 platform. They both have their businesses along the superhighway. Anne Wanjiru had this to say about business before and after the reconstruction of the superhighway:
Before, business was not doing well because we had limited business time and the little we got from the business was shared with the city council. Now business is doing okay regardless of the dwindling economy, we get something to support our families because of the security we enjoy and the good working hours.
Property developers have had the value of their properties rise up to 5 times or more as a result of better infrastructure along the 50.4 km highway. Rose Njoroge, a landlady in the area, had this to say about the superhighway:
Property is selling like hot cake along Thika superhighway, like here in Kahawa, plots for sale went for around 200,000 [shs] just a few years ago, but now without 2 million you cannot get a plot. Everyone is coming to Thika road and because of the high demand, property prices are going up.
Over 3,500 Kenyans worked in the reconstruction of Thika road throughout its span period, and with large investors such as Nakumatt (a chain store super market in East Africa), there is a possibility of more people living along the superhighway benefiting from employment hence residence are eagerly waiting for it to open. Supply of vegetables and other fresh food stuff to the supermarket will be easy and timely as it is strategically located near farms.
Superhighway of money or not, Thika superhighway has truly changed the lives of many Kenyans and the economy of the country at large.
A drive from Thika to Nairobi; not a pain anymore.