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Introduction of BRTs in Nairobi is just Another Public Scam


Recently Matteo Rizzo, using the case of Dar es Salaam, has given a critique to the false promise of Bus rapid transit systems (BRT). He argues that the BRT has several prominent advocates around the world, including the World Bank and NGOs such as the Institute for Transport and Development Policy (ITDP) and Embarq. They claim that the system combines the flexibility of bus transit with the speed, reliability and capacity of rail systems, at a fraction of the cost. He further posits that it is also regularly said that BRT fares can match those of pre-existing minibus operators, and that BRT buses cause less pollution. In his view, such arguments fuel claims that BRT systems represent a “win-win” solution to public transport woes, benefiting the economy, the environment and the poor all at once. But he concludes that there’s evidence to show that BRT proponents promise more than they can deliver, especially for society’s most vulnerable. Using the case of Dar es Salaam, he gives evidence that supports his conclusion. 

But, as usual, other African nations are increasingly embracing the idea of BRT, most of them without taking any consideration of some the issues raised by experts. Kenya, for instance, has announced its decision to unveil the BRT in Nairobi soon. What is more curious about the case of Kenya is that this system is being rolled out even without requisite infrastructure. At least Tanzania did invest in infrastructure. In Kenya, clearly the cart is right in front of the horse. The buses have already been procured and will be unveiled in the next few days, according to the Cabinet Secretary in charge of Transport. But as far as I can recall, there is yet to be any meaningful basic infrastructure especially road design in Nairobi, in view of efficiently running the BRT. Well, there were red lines drawn on some roads like Thika, apparently demarcating and setting aside the dedicated lanes but even common man on the street (like myself) can see a number of obvious problems with those red lines, hence questioning the efficacy of the BRT which government sets to unveil soon. Whether anyone, in Kenya, is taking into account some of the issues raised by experts such as Matteo Rizzo through the case of Tanzania remains a question. But, then, we are talking about functionaries of the Kenyan state, no? Do they care about knowledge anyway?! By the way, is the end product of introducing BRT to have Nairobi moving, anyway? Most likely all there is about procurement and the kickbacks. Period. Procurement in Kenya is lucrative; the best known way to government officials, to make (not earn) quick and big money. Steal. So, here are the digs. Go out there, shop around, using taxpayers money, purchase whatever buses. Import them in fact. Do not even explore the possibility of assembling them locally. Never mind government is singing about big four in which manufacturing is one. The same government imports full assembled buses. Most likely at inflated coast. Then put them on existing roads, whether they help anything is none of the immediate concern of a public officer in a bandit economy like Kenya. Few years later, the project joins the ever lengthening list, of so called white elephant projects, in which billions of tax-payers money is buried.

Introduction of BRTs in Nairobi is just Another Public Scam Introduction of BRTs in Nairobi is just Another Public Scam Reviewed by Ibrahim Magara on January 28, 2019 Rating: 5

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