Former Kenyan President Toroitich arap Moi once declared that Kenya would join the group of industrialized countries by 1990. In 1989 he officially presented a new car that would be produced in Kenya as evidence of the progress made by the country. Then, the awaited year was moved to 2000, and later on to 2010. People are still waiting, both the upgrade and the car! However, the dream is not dead. Kenyans are now told that the country is on the verge of a major shape up, this time by 2030. The unveiling of the project coincides with the arrival of an election year, when Kenyan politicians step up the work to get re-elected. It is also a time when the majority of political leaders are dealing, in a way or another, with the process pending at the International Court for their involvement in the violence that followed the last general elections in 2007. Then, about 2,000 Kenyans lost their life in politically instigated violence. The perpetrators are still to pay for their crimes. Hence Kenya Vision 2030, a project that gives new grandeur to the nation and could bring old enemies together. It could also be possible that some of the projects envisioned in the dream of a new Kenya might become a reality.
Vision 2030 is a mega long-term plan to build new ports and airports, lay down thousands of kilometres of optical fibre, building thousands of kilometres of roads and high-speed rail: the cost of the infrastructure planned in the project is around $ 22 billion. Within the next two decades, the country aims to become the main commercial intermediary of South Sudan, Ethiopia, DR Congo, Central African Republic, Congo and Chad, thanks to the construction of a port in Lamu with an estimated capacity of more than 30 million tons of cargo per year. The new port will be built a few kilometres from the border with Somalia and will cost 3.5 billion dollars. A Chinese company is the probable candidate for the project, which foresees the simultaneous construction of a pipeline connecting Kenya with South Sudan, Ethiopia and Uganda, an international airport in Lamu, high-speed railways, highways and fibre optics lines. The contract will cost the Kenyan government a total of 16 billion dollars.
The investment required could be guaranteed by credit supplied by rights of transportation of crude oil that Nairobi would cash in from South Sudan and Uganda. In fact, Kampala is preparing to begin extract the 2.5 billion barrels of estimated oil reserves near Lake Albert, on the border with DR Congo. The infant state of South Sudan has an output of about 300 thousand barrels per day, but to export oil it depends on the infrastructure controlled by the government of Khartoum. Kenya will not only transport crude oil. According to Vision 2030, there will be a refinery capable of treating 120 thousand barrels of oil per day, enough to cover domestic and regional demand. Vision 2030 foresees also the building of a commercial city near Konza, now a small town in the back of beyond south of Nairobi. The new city would provide a modern environment to companies that want to offer services to Kenya and establish new administrative headquarters from where to direct their production.
This grand project is now on hold. The insecurity in Somalia does worry the government that already sent an army to fight against the Islamic fundamentalists of Al Shabaab. Kenya shares a 682 km border with Somalia. It is a poorly supervised area, criss-crossed every day by hundreds of people, mostly illegal merchants. The invasion of Somalia was decided to restore some security in those marginal areas, control contraband, and try to establish Kenya as the regional power. After more than three months, Kenyan soldiers are still stuck at just over 100 kilometres inland. They were, however, welcomed into the African Union peace mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
Kenyans are now flowed with stylish images of the new infrastructures. They are told how this grand project will influence their lives and bring the dream of entering the middle class status close to realization for each citizen. Kenya Vision 2030 is an imaginative proposal, and it has merit. Most probably, it will be used by politicians to distract voters until Election Day. Later, the beautiful bubble will burst and everything will return to normal, with the majority of the population living under £1 per day, unable to access basic services and a far distant dream of better times.
The judges of the International Court were not impressed by the plans. At the end of January they ruled that Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, Eldoret North MP William Ruto, Head of Civil Service Francis Muthaura, and journalist Joshua arap Sang will have to stand trial for their role in post election violence in 2007-08. The visionaries working for the planning of Kenya Vision 2030 should get ready to sketch a new campaign for Vision 2050.
Mepukori ole Karam