OPINION: Allow builders to embrace construction technology

Engineers fix a pothole on Ngong Road, Nairobi, February 9, 2016.
Engineers fix a pothole on Ngong Road, Nairobi, February 9, 2016. PHOTO/FILE
The recent move by the government to discard the roads annuity program has shocked many since it was regarded as the key to the Jubilee’s dream of constructing 10,000 kilometres of rural and medium grade urban roads during its first term in office.

This has been attributed to the slow pace of approval of projects under the program since many stakeholders including local contractors, financiers and legal teams had to reach consensus on every detail.

The local construction companies, which have been majorly blamed for the failure of the program, were reportedly charging up to Sh1 billion to build a kilometre of road.

While this is a gross inflation of costs, I do believe local firms can deliver low cost roads if the government allows them to embrace modern construction technology.

READ: Kenya’s ambitious 10,000km annuity road plan has flopped

The government should, for example, allow the use of probase technology from Malaysia – which was already in use in Embu County last year, just before the State moved in quickly to stop its use until tests for its quality assurance are concluded.

While bitumen technology costs between Sh30 million and Sh80 million per kilometre of tarmacked road at current market rates, probase costs between Sh15 million and Sh22 million. With proper maintenance, probase roads can last up to a minimum of 20 years.

– Peterson Mbote in Tokyo, Japan