The construction industry in Kenya is driven primarily by two key infrastructure sectors: transportation and building/housing. The Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure is responsible for policy initiatives and actions with respect to roads, aviation, maritime, rail, housing, and urban development.
According to the Kenya Economic Survey 2022, the Kenyan construction industry grew by only 6.6% in 2021, a decline from 10.1% in 2020 and an indication of a slowdown in the short term. The sector is expected to maintain a growth rate of 6% in the near term as it shakes off the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. This growth will be driven by large infrastructure projects in roads, ports, and airports in 2022 and beyond. Due to budgetary constraints, the GOK hopes to realize more infrastructure projects as PPPs.
In 2018, the GOK announced an ambitious development agenda dubbed “the Big Four” that aims at addressing issues related to affordable housing, universal healthcare, growing manufacturing, and food security. On affordable housing, the GOK’s goal of building 500,000 homes continues to take shape, albeit slowly, with only 431 units realized by the end of 2021.
U.S. firms have opportunities in the road and railway construction sectors and may also offer engineering design, consultancy, and supervision services in partnership with local firms.
Transport Infrastructure: Kenya enjoys an extensive but uneven infrastructure that remains superior to that of its neighbors. Nairobi is the transportation hub of eastern and central Africa and is the largest city between Cairo and Johannesburg. The Port of Mombasa is the most important deep-water port in the region, supplying the shipping needs of more than a dozen countries despite persistent deficiencies in equipment, inefficiency, and corruption. To remedy these deficiencies, the Port of Mombasa has been undergoing major expansion and rehabilitation.
According to the World Bank, Kenya needs to invest $4bn annually over the next decade to close the existing infrastructure deficit. The transportation infrastructure sector, however, requires additional private sector participation through PPPs to ease the debt burden on the government. To encourage investors, the National Treasury, through the PPP Unit, has strengthened the legal framework governing PPPs and has identified various infrastructure projects for implementation as PPPs. A list of the projects is available on the PPP Unit website (http://portal.pppunit.go.ke/)
Road Infrastructure: Out of Kenya’s total 246,757 kilometers of road networks, both classified and unclassified, only about 21,583 kilometers are paved. To fast-track the development of rural bitumen roads, the Kenyan Government has earmarked 10,000 kilometers of roads countrywide for development under the Low Volume Seal Roads (LVSR) Program. So far, 4,400 kilometers have been completed, with major works underway to reach the target. In addition, Kenya’s Road Annuity Program recorded its first success with the attainment of financial close on two new roads to be developed as PPPs in central and western Kenya, with the World Bank’s MIGA providing guarantees. The program, aimed at developing 10,000 kilometers of road through contractor-facilitated financing mechanisms, has been slow to take off due to local banks’ failure to fund the program. Eight lots are still listed for development under the annuity program on the PPP portal.
Kenya has reintroduced toll roads with private sector participation, given the recent completion of the 27-kilometer Nairobi Expressway. In addition, four other major roads have been earmarked for tolling under a PPP plan, including the Nairobi-Nakuru-Mau Summit Highway currently under construction, Thika Road, Nairobi’s Southern Bypass, and a second Nyali bridge in Mombasa city. Finally, the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure has identified five bus rapid transit (BRT) corridors for development within the Nairobi Metropolitan Area. The Line Two pilot along Thika Superhighway is currently under construction, with the other lines to be developed as funding is made available.
Currently, there are various roadworks going on, including road construction, dualling, upgrading, and rehabilitation, and bridges and interchanges construction measuring 2,300 kilometers and being carried out at a total cost of $2.2 billion.
Airport Infrastructure: Kenya has international airports in Nairobi, Mombasa, Eldoret, and Kisumu, and domestic airports in Nairobi, Malindi, Lamu, and Lokichogio (Turkana), in addition to another 463 aerodromes and airstrips. All public airport facilities are managed by the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA). The aviation industry took a big hit during the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw the industry grind to a halt. However, the sector is rebounding as travel restrictions are lifted and travel and tourism resume globally.
Several of Kenya’s airports have been earmarked for expansion. An ongoing modernization program at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) will include the construction of modern terminals, a national airport masterplan, installation of integrated security systems at all major airports, installation of communication equipment, and institutional capacity building. JKIA is the busiest airport in east and central Africa and is the seventh busiest on the continent. Originally built in the 1970s to serve 2.5 million passengers annually, the ongoing modernization and expansion program at the airport is being done while the airport has seen its capacity increase to 7.5 million. The current projects aim to increase capacity to 20 million passengers by 2030. Kenya intends to build a second runway at JKIA and has received $160 million from the African Development Bank for this project.
Other airport expansion projects include the ongoing expansion or construction of the Malindi, Isiolo, and Lokichogio airports, the Suneka airstrip, and the rehabilitation of airstrips in all 47 counties. The Malindi Airport expansion, valued at $54 million, will enable the facility to handle international flights and includes an extension of the existing runway and apron, a modern terminal building, a control tower, fire and meteorological stations, and enhanced security features. Moi International Airport in Mombasa received $66 million from the French Development Agency (AFD) for rehabilitation and construction of airside pavements, airfield ground lighting, and upgrading of power and water supply.
Improvement works at Lokichogio, Lamu, Manda Island, and Isiolo Airports have been ongoing, with some of these airports already operational with scheduled flights. The provision of airport facilities will strengthen air transport and logistics services along the corridor in readiness for the construction of the three international airports at the three locations in the future.
Maritime Infrastructure: Kenya’s sole seaport in Mombasa is the largest port in east Africa and the second largest in Africa, serving both Kenya and neighboring countries, including Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) is the government agency mandated to maintain, operate, and regulate scheduled seaports along Kenya’s coastline. The Port of Mombasa recently completed Phase 1 of the Mombasa Port Development Project (MPDP), which included the construction of a second container terminal, three additional berths, two ship-to-shore cranes and four rubber-tire gantry cranes. The project was funded by the Japanese Government at the cost of $217 million.
Construction of the Port of Lamu in northern Kenya under the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia-Transport (LAPSSET) corridor is east Africa’s largest and most ambitious infrastructure project. Upon completion, the $5 billion project will consist of 32 berths. The first phase includes dredging and reclamation, construction of three berths and yards, a causeway and road, buildings, and utilities and is financed by China at a cost of $700 million. Berth 1 is already complete, while berths 2 and 3 are 70% complete. Kenya intends to develop the remaining 29 berths using a PPP model financed by the private sector.
Rail Infrastructure: Kenya’s total rail network has 2,778 kilometers of narrow meter gauge rail (MGR) and 545 kilometers of the Chinese-funded standard gauge rail (SGR) from Mombasa to Naivasha and is managed by the Kenya Railways Corporation (KRC), a state corporation mandated to provide rail and inland waterways transport.
Kenya has partnered with the United Kingdom to develop the Nairobi Railway City, a new rail hub within the Central Business District. UK firm Atkin Global won the bid to design a modern, eight-platform central rail station and a public space, which will anchor commercial and residential developments on a 425-acre spread that will host the Nairobi railway transit hub. Rail infrastructure will take up the lion’s share of the project. The initial phase of the project is being funded by the UK government while consulting firm KPMG is leading the search for investors into the projects that offer commercial viability such as residential homes, commercial buildings, and parking lots. The Railway City will be developed in three phases over 20 years. Construction of the railway station is expected to begin by the end of 2022.
Commercial Construction: The Kenyan construction sector will continue to be supported by the growing real estate sector, particularly hotels, offices, and retail developments, as investors continue to enter east Africa through Nairobi. Prominent hotel brands operating in the market or planning to enter in the near term include New York-based hotel group Carlson Rezidor, Hilton, JW Marriott, Pullman, Best Western, Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, and Swiss-based Movenpick Hotels and Resorts. Developments are focused on increasing bed capacity as well as providing conference facilities to adequately cater to rising domestic and international business demands. According to the Kenya Investment Authority, 27 global hotel brands have announced plans to open new or additional facilities by 2023.
Given Kenya’s current high debt burden, the government is increasingly looking to the private sector to implement infrastructure projects either under the Engineering Procurement and Construction (EPC)+Finance model or as PPP projects. Various types of PPPs are available and include management contracts; concessions; Build, Operate, and Transfer (BOT); Build, Own, Operate, and Transfer (BOOT); or Rehabilitate-Operate-Transfer (ROT). A comprehensive list of approved PPP projects is available on the PPP Unit website. In addition, companies are welcome to propose projects under the Privately Initiated Investment Proposal (PIIP) model.
The best prospects for U.S. exporters include the supply of new and used construction equipment, such as light and heavy earth-moving equipment, loaders, crawlers, tippers, excavators, compactors, graders, quarry mining equipment, low-cost road maintenance options, low-cost housing construction technology, consultancy, and development and planning services.
Kenya uses right-hand drive vehicles, so machines with controls in the center are better sellers.
Additional opportunities include:
- A variety of road, bridge, and dam construction and rehabilitation projects.
- Construction of a $370 million second runway at JKIA and expansion and modernization of several other airports.
- Development of commuter rail services for the cities of Nairobi, Mombasa, and Kisumu at a cost of $125 million.
- Various infrastructure PPP projects earmarked by the National Treasury.
- The 500,000 affordable housing program under the State Department for Housing. Kenya is looking for strategic partners to develop mass low cost and affordable housing. Details can be found on the Boma Yangu website.
- Nairobi Metropolitan Transport Authority (NaMATA) – Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) facilities within five counties (Nairobi, Muranga, Machakos, Kiambu, and Kajiado).
- Opportunities also exist for consultancy and planning services.
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For more information on the infrastructure sector, contact:
Senior Commercial Specialist
U.S. Commercial Service, U.S. Embassy Nairobi
U.S. Department of Commerce | International Trade Administration
Tel: +254 (20) 363-6063; Mary.Masyuko@trade.gov