Can China build ‘Dubai’ in Machakos for Sh65bn?

Proposed Dubai in Machakos
An artist’s impression of the proposed ‘Dubai’ in Machakos. PHOTO/COURTESY
Social media was awash with comments on April 6 when the Sunday Nation broke a story that Chinese Investors were planning to build a ‘Dubai’ in Machakos County.

According to the story, 100 Asian investors are planning to build a Sh65 billion city in Kenya, styled as a Chinese-controlled economic zone, which will host companies from China and serve as the county’s hub for East Africa.

The project, which will be developed in Athi River, Machakos County – about 30 km from Nairobi, includes construction of at least 20 skyscrapers and infrastructure that could match the glamour of Dubai.

The proposed city, whose construction is scheduled to start later this year, is expected to be a premier shopping destination that stocks Chinese and other global products.


But perhaps what is most interesting is the fierce debate that ensued on Facebook and Twitter regarding the story.

While some commenters were excited about the possibility of having a Kenyan ‘Dubai’, many others questioned China’s ability to a build a city for only Sh65 billion.

“Sh65 billion is the cost of one skyscraper in Dubai,” said a commenter by the name IT6.

“It is made in China. Sh65 billion will work just fine,” said James Kusewa, alluding to China’s ability to put up massive projects quickly, and with relatively low costs.

So can China really build a Sh65 billion ‘Dubai’ in Machakos? The answer is a YES, based on the Asian giant’s unique prefab-enabled building process.

Through prefabrication, over 95 per cent of the engineering work will be completed in a factory – meaning most of the skyscrapers will be completed before ground breaking is done on-site.

Mass production of components and reduced labour costs (fewer engineers are required to install the components) and the high speed of installation will translate into reduced construction costs and build time.

READ: Can China build the world’s tallest building in90 days?

It will be interesting to see how the Athi River project will affect the country’s building and construction industry.