Africa: Cash crunch halts Maasai Mara road works

The Sh3 billion project to upgrade Narok-Sekenani Gate road to bitumen standards has been halted under unclear circumstances, painting a bleak prospect to the Maasai Mara Game Reserve.

The Chinese contractor has finally stopped construction works on the 86-kilometre road after complaining of a financing hitch in the last four months.

Nominated MP David olé Sankok raised the matter at the National Assembly and told Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia to explain where the money set aside for the project went.

“The contractors have said they cannot continue since the government has not remitted the money yet this cash was budgeted for. Can the CS tell us where the money is?” he asked.

Addressing the press at his Osim Country Lodge in Ewaso Ngiro Mr Sankok said the idea of upgrading the road was for tourists and residents to enjoy a seamless ride to the game reserve on completion of the project.

The construction of the road Narok-Sekenani Gate under the Kenya National Highways Authority kicked off in 2016. It was to be completed by June before the tourism peak season.

The road is always very busy in August as more than 700,000 tourists travel there to witness the annual wildebeest crossing of the crocodile-infested Mara River.

The Mara was ranked the best wildlife reserve in Africa for the sixth time running by the World Travel Awards, raising chances of an increased flow of tourists.

The contractor, China Wu Yi Construction Company, had already completed 65 percent of the works before running out of the funds.

A sport-check by the Business Daily found the local youths, who were hired for the project, had been ordered to go home
The company had parked earth movers at the Loita Plains Hotel and Nkoilale trading centre construction sites.

Since the establishment of Maasai Mara in 1958, this was to be the first main highway that was expected to ease transport of tourists to the game reserve, which earns the Narok Sh2.73 billion in county revenue.
Tour operators and locals accused the government of reneging on its pledge to upgrade the road.

Tour Guides and Drivers Association Secretary Felix Migoya said they read a conspiracy between airline operators and national government officials to stall the project for their own gains.

“If complete, many people would tour the Mara since the road is good, and many airlines might lack clients so we call on the government to investigate this,” he said.


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