Changing fortunes: Tarmac roads in Lodwar transform lives as more businesses spring up

Lodwar town
Photo credit: Sammy Lutta | Nation Media Group

Before the first tarmac road was constructed in Lodwar Town in 2014, the dusty and muddy stretch between Cooperative Bank and Africana Hotel was crowded with various businesses, depending on the season.

The route was a beehive of activity with many businesses including public transport, hotels, bars, electronics shops, boutiques, retail shops and accommodation.

The Kenya Urban Roads Authority constructed a 3.2-kilometre road at a cost of Sh168 million, tactfully targeting the busy route and others with high business potential, such as the one between the Lodwar GK Prison roundabout and the Kenya Women Finance Trust branch.

The Turkana County government later allocated Sh350 million for a further six kilometres of tarmac, prioritising one road from the Kitale-Lodwar highway to the county headquarters and another to the Napetet trading centre via Lodwar High School.

The roads are not only boosting commercial activity in the community but also changing its face to attract private investors who have built high-rise buildings.

The expansion of the town and increasing cases of insecurity, where street children and criminals took advantage of the darkness to terrorise innocent traders working late to serve motorists and passengers, forced the county government to install solar street lights in 2015.

Street lights

A trader, Absolom Ndong'a, said the street lights had facilitated 24-hour business, especially on the once most insecure roads such as Kenya Women Finance Trust to Ngonda, Seven Up to Lodwar GK Prison, Lodwar County Referral Hospital to Napetet.

"The town has undergone a major facelift as the county government has also constructed 231 parking lots and walkways and drainage systems to attract investors," said Ndong'a.

Lodwar Town Municipality Board Chairperson Christine Tatoi says despite the ongoing construction of the new Sh198 million tarmac road, which was characterised by poor drainage, roaming street children and a filthy state, they have provided parking lots, more solar-powered street lights and a dump site at Nayanae-angikalalio as enablers for businesses to grow in Lodwar.

The five targeted streets are 660m Rubis-St Kelvin's Secondary School Road, 280m Kataboi Hardware - Midwest Hotel backstreet road, 690m Cooperative Bank roundabout - Lodwar Lodge - St Theresa junction, 340m Kilimanjaro Street, 400m Lorugum Bar Street and five link roads totalling 610m.

Ms Tatoi notes that the opening of more than three kilometres of access roads in the municipality will be key to opening up spaces for businesses and also facilitate easy access during emergency response.

She said the board was moving fast to identify and gazette public land in the county to deny unscrupulous cartels the opportunity to grab land.

Turkana Governor Jeremiah Lomorukai said the roads will now bring the total number of tarmacked roads by the county government and the Kenya Urban Roads Authority to 13km in the municipality.

Unpaved roads

"The tarmacked roads will be accompanied by non-motorised transport facilities, drainage works and street lights. The initiative is part of my administration's commitment to improving the status of the municipality," said Mr Lomorukai.

 He said that for too long traders have endured numerous challenges caused by unpaved roads, dust, mud and even surfaces that have hindered travel and economic growth, and that improved road infrastructure is crucial to attracting investment, facilitating trade and unlocking endless opportunities for our local businesses.

He identified the continued improvement of all streets within Lodwar Municipality, improved firefighting services, beautification of the town, improvement of market places and the transfer of all gazetted municipal functions to the municipality as key priority areas for the current financial year.

The council has allocated Sh30 million for the beautification of the town and its environs in the next financial year.

County Commissioner Julius Kavita urged residents to take advantage of the new road infrastructure and embrace a 24-hour economy.

"I challenge you to aim at attaining city status, just as Eldoret was a municipality, but is now moving closer to becoming the newest city," Mr Kavita said.