Tarmacked Ukunda road to boost trade and tourism

The newly tarmacked  Sh130 million Mvindeni-Lofta Road in Msambweni that leads to Diani Beach in this photo taken on July 20,2021.  Tourism stakeholders are upbeat that this will boost their sector and encourage investment in the previously bushy area.

Photo credit: Siago Cece I Nation Media Group.

The Kwale County government has upgraded several roads, changing the fortunes of communities and investors in this coastal region.

One example is the recently tarmacked Sh134 million Mvindeni-Lofta road in Msambweni sub-county that connects the Ukunda-Ramisi road on the Lungalunga highway to Diani Beach.

The construction, launched by Kwale Governor Salim Mvurya in December 2020, is complete.

Tourists will now have a second access route to the beach other than the busy Diani Beach Road at the Ukunda Junction.

Ruth Khayanje, an Umoja resident who runs a cafe at the Mvindeni junction, where the road begins, says she is hopeful that the road will bring in more customers.

Rose Khayanje, a resident of Umoja Estate in Mvindeni  working at her café business near the Mvindeni Junction.  She  set up the business after the road was tarmacked and hopes to have more customers. 

Photo credit: Siago Cece I Nation Media Group.

“Previously this area was bushy and there were no shops. I set up my cafe after the road was tarmacked,” she said.

“I previously worked as a housekeeper in Diani but I was dismissed with the onset of Covid-19 pandemic.”

She stressed that the road has not only opened up opportunities for businesses but also improved security in the area where gangs had been common.

She said she once narrowly escaped a night attack by a panga-wielding man.

“One time I was leaving work at 9pm and used this route. I felt someone was following me and I started running. Luckily, a motorbike approached and the boy riding it offered to carry me. He said he had noticed someone was following me,” she said.

The road is also expected to spruce up the property market in the Diani Scheme area.

More people are now buying land in the area and prices have been rising, said Diani Scheme village chairman Mzee Hamisi Mwakirea.

An acre that previously sold for Sh2 million now goes for Sh3.5 million.

“It’s just because of the road. Many people now want to come and settle here and that is why the prices are increasing by the day,” he told the Nation.

Other than the road, he said, the county government has also fixed drainage systems and street lights on a section of the road, enhancing security.

For their part, tourism stakeholders have expressed satisfaction with the road, saying it will improve access to the award-winning Diani Beach.

Tourism is one of the main sources of income for Diani residents, many of whom work in hotels or as tour guides.

The road is significant for hotels and tour companies and travel stakeholders at large, said Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers Coast executive Sam Ikwaye.

“Previously, people did not know Diani and some knew it as part of Mombasa because of its difficulty to access. However, we believe we will now have more investments due to ease of accessibility,” Dr Ikwaye said.

Kenya Coast Tourist Association chief executive Julius Owino said Diani is an award-winning tourist town because of the beaches and it draws many people.

“It will now be easy for tourists and guests to connect to the Ukunda Airstrip from Funzi or Wasini Islands without having to use Diani Beach Road, which experiences heavy traffic in peak hours,” Mr Owino said.

He added that with improved infrastructure, the area will have greater economic significance.

Mzee Hamisi Mwakireo , a village Chairman at Diani Scheme at his home on July 20,2021. He said with the upgraded road,  an acre of land is now sold at Sh3.5 million, up from Sh2million due to high demand.

Photo credit: Siago Cece I Nation Media Group.

He urged the government to complete the about 22km Kwale-Kinango road that will make it easier for travellers to connect to the Mombasa-Nairobi highway without using the ferry.

Another expected boost to trade and tourism in Kwale is the Dongo Kundu Special Economic Zone. Better roads to serve the zone will improve access to the South Coast.

Kwale Governor Salim Mvurya said upgrading roads will encourage investments and help businesses grow and that will in turn help residents.

He said the completed road is meant to decongest Kona ya Beach Road in Diani.

“We are taking advantage of devolution to ensure that every community member has benefited from development in this county. This new development will open up the frontiers of doing business and ease transportation,” he said.

Among the other recently completed transport projects is the Samburu-Kinango road, which bypasses the ferry crossing and connects travellers from Diani Tsavo and Amboseli national parks.