NAIROBI — The East African country of Kenya is home to 42 million people and has a vibrant culture to complement its deep history and vast landscape. But, unfortunately, the country is also home to poverty, drought and conflict. That being said, successful and abundant development projects have helped bridge this divide. Here are just a few development projects in Kenya that are helping shape the country’s future.
In June 2017, Kenya inaugurated a stretch of railway between two of its most important cities: Nairobi and Mombasa. This railway — which will eventually extend into South Sudan and Uganda — is the largest development project in Kenya’s history. Its goal is economic as well as practical — not only does it shrink the commute between the cities from 12 hours to four, it also connects East Africa’s biggest port (Mombasa) to several of Kenya’s neighbors.
While concerns over the cost of the project (approximately $13 billion, 90 percent of which is funded by the Chinese government) abound, Kenya hopes that the rail will ease congestion, promote tourism and ultimately allow for a healthier and trade-friendly economy.
In 2015, the World Bank lent $88 million to Kenya with the intent to overhaul the country’s educational system by 2019. The overhaul has not only focused on revamping curriculum and improving teacher training but has attempted to innovate the way students learn. Kenya is accomplishing this goal by teaching citizenship, health education, life skills and values and sustainable development.
Kenya’s Ministry of Education seeks to provide the skills necessary to either attend higher education or enter the workforce; therefore, vocational programs are available concurrently with formal education. An ambitious project to complete in a short four years, Kenya is nevertheless laying the framework to transform its students into well-rounded individuals contributing to the public good.
Severing the connection between addiction and HIV/AIDS
HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death in Kenya. To a large extent, the disease is spread through intravenous drugs such as heroin. To combat unsafe needles and reckless drug use, USAID has implemented a series of medically assisted therapy (MAT) clinics. The goals of the MAT clinics include providing methadone — a medication to calm withdrawal symptoms — to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS transmitted via infected needles. Since 2015, over 1,000 people have received methadone treatments at Kenya’s MAT clinics.
The Silicon Valley of Africa
When Kenya’s TEAMS cable became East Africa’s first fiber optic network cable, the country suddenly had the ability to seize upon previously unseen capabilities. This new access to technology, coupled with the Kenya Open Data Initiative, saw the rise of revolutionary apps such as M-Pesa (a money transferring service) and Ushahidi (an information-gathering and interactive mapping tool). The latter quickly gained traction around the world and was used in the U.S. during the 2016 elections. The technological development projects in Kenya have already gained international respect and have set it apart as the tech leader amongst African countries.
The Power of Solar
The World Bank recently allocated $150 million to improve Kenya’s power problem. Much of the country has weak or underserved energy resources, particularly in rural areas. To solve this issue, Kenya is using the World Bank funds to install solar grids for underserved communities. By 2023, the goal is to have sustainable energy systems and solar water pumps throughout Kenya that will provide uninterrupted power and clean and safe water conditions to all of its citizens.
The success of development projects in Kenya in the areas of transportation, education, healthcare, technology and energy cannot be overstated. Even so, the country has a long way to go in its development, particularly in the economy and the eradication of HIV/AIDS. The U.S. and other countries should look at Kenya’s implementation of development projects and use it as a groundwork for furthering resources to ensure that Kenya reaches its full potential.
– Eric Paulsen