Category Archives: Kenya motoring

SWVL and Little shuttles shut in Kenya

Unique shuttle services by SWVL and Little Ride were ordered to halt operating this week by Kenya’s transport regulator, the National Transport and Safety Authority.

Excerpts from a recent  column about the services:

SWVL has interesting routes all over Nairobi from residential areas to business hubs. Examples are for people who make daily commutes from Ruiru or Kahawa Sukari to offices in Westlands, or others who live in Kitengela and work in Upper Hill. Traditionally they would have to use two (matatu) vehicles and walk across the central business district (CBD) which they only pass because it is where most bus routes terminate. 

 But now, enticed with free introduction rides, they can get to work in half the time, by booking a ride in advance on an app, and paying a flat fee of Kshs 200 per journey. Some get to ride in comfortable shuttles with Wi-Fi, not the old, creaky matatus, that serve many ‘posh’ areas of Nairobi. Little Shuttle has now branched into long-haul services with several daily trips between Nairobi and Nakuru.

The news was first revealed by Kamal Budhabhatti, Chief Executive of Little in one of his regular email updates to customers of Little. He noted that the shuttles they used were from partners who were fully licensed  but that the NTSA had said it was not the correct license. 

He asked that the NTSA do dialogue with them as a technology companies trying to change public transportation through a popular service that had run for almost a year and which has been very popular. He added that when Safaricom launched M-Pesa there was no regulation on mobile  money and that the Central Bank of Kenya was able to come up with a legal model afterwards. He also wondered if the decision to stop Little was instigated by pressure from the public transport cartels.

On the SWVL side, the General Manager, SWVL Kenya, Shivachi Muleji, stated that: We have been engaging with the government and are still in the process. There have been a few milestones and we are happy with the progress. We’ll remain committed to ensuring that we build a business that’s fully compliant.

Government Initiatives: Meanwhile the Government’s plan for Bus Rapid Transit system and a Nairobi Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (NaMATA) are still at the drawing plan stage. It’s also been a few years since Google and Equity bank tries to reorder the finances of the public transportation sector.

Kobo360 and SWVL launch in Nairobi on the same day

On one day late in August 2019, two young disruptive, but non-competing, logistics companies had parallel breakfast events to mark significant milestones in Nairobi.

Kobo360: There was the formal launch of Kobo 360, the pan-African logistics company which has been operating for five months in Kenya. Kobo360 pairs cargo owners with transporters, enabling the seamless booking and transport of goods to destinations while lorry owners get extra business and revenue from the running their trucks on the company’s platforms.

Kobo360 aims to is introduce efficiency and predictability to the $150 billion Africa logistics industry through real-time data, by providing insurance & tracking, and all to facilitate trust in delivery and payments. They operate in Nigeria, Kenya, Togo, Ghana, and Uganda and make deliveries to other countries in West, Central and Southern Africa from port cities.

Founded in Nigeria, they view tech adoption as being  higher in Kenya and they want to use it as a launchpad for the East Africa region. Kobo360 has offices in Mombasa and Nairobi and currently have 3,000 trucks and access to 4,000 drivers on their platforms. They have raised funding from the IFC, Goldman Sachs, TL Com, Chandaria Capital, Verod, Asia Africa and WTI.

SWVL Kenya official launch: The same day as the Kobo event, SWVL also announced their official launch in Kenya with a Kshs 1.5 billion expansion of its Kenya operation. This is equivalent to $15 million which is a lot of money that will go towards increasing their route network offering of high-quality public transportation. The company which was started in Egypt in 2017 has been operating in Nairobi for six months now and recently raised $42 million from its investors including BECO Capital and Sweden’s Vostok New Ventures. It has gone from operating four routes on which passengers can book rides on SWVL shuttles to fifty-five routes now across Nairobi. Here is a rice review of using SWVL by a Nairobi commuter.

Renault Trucks launch in East Africa with CMC

In Nairobi this week, Renault Trucks launched a new Range K line as part of an ambitious plan to expand in Eastern Africa. The Range K is a versatile, rugged truck that is designed for local owners engaged in a variety of sectors such as long-distance haulage to neighbouring countries and consumer goods delivery, or rugged conditions like mining and construction operations.

Renault Trucks are part of the Volvo Group and are completely separate from the Renault car company. In Kenya, Renault Trucks are exclusively distributed by the CMC Group, which was acquired by Majid Al Futtaim Auto in 2014. Renault Trucks sold 55,000 of their award-winning line of trucks in 2018. They lead in Franco-phone (Northern, Western, and Central) Africa, and their plans to expand further in Eastern and Southern Africa, led to a partnership deal with CMC, under Majid Al Futtaim Auto.

CMC Group, which is now in 3 countries (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania), plans to grow to 10 countries – including Mauritius, Mozambique, Rwanda, Burundi Zambia, Zimbabwe Malawi over the next few years and the global brand of Renault Trucks will be part of that push. CMC Group will sell K440 (Range K) series and C440 Renault Truck model.

The Range K’s are fitted with robust chassis and heavy-duty robotized gearbox, which make them easier for their drivers. The trucks all have Optidrive Xtrem, described as the best gearbox in the market, which is a clutch-less manual gearbox. Drivers have an adjustable steering wheel with controls similar to a private car and there is a 7-inch screen for them to view all vehicle settings during operations.

The Range K trucks are designed can carry up to 13 tons per axle and they have heavy-duty “fifth wheels'” that can pull trailers of over 33 tons in this region with a range of over 1,000 kilometers on a single diesel tank. The trucks have load sensors and low range gears for use on project work like street sweeping, tarmac laying and water-spraying. They have electronic parking brakes and hill-start aids that prevent roll-back, and with drum brakes on all wheels that can go for up to 750,000 kilometres without needing change.

The K440 trucks have high ground clearance with engine under-guards and are designed to manoeuvre in tight spaces and climb out of hilly places like construction sites without damaging the underbelly of the trucks. The vehicle design encompasses steel protection of parts that are sensitive like headlights and license plates, so they are not damaged at rough worksites. For companies, there is also a large front advertising area above the radiator grilles, which itself easily opens to allow for drivers to do quick maintenance checks.

At the launch, key managers of CMC and Renault Trucks highlighted how operating expenses take up 76% of the ownership cost of a truck for investors – with fuel accounting for 37%, driver costs 23% and repairs for another 16%. Renault configures trucks for each owner in terms of axle ratios, braking and power modes. There is also mandatory driver training to ensure reliable vehicle usage while reducing fuel consumption and maintenance costs with the goal of having the trucks always available and working on the road. The trucks come with an international 12-month warranty and CMC also offers start-and-drive 5-year contracts and personalized maintenance plans in addition to after-sales services and genuine parts at its wide network of distribution centres around East Africa.

CMC Group has entered a partnership that will see Kenya Vehicle Manufacturers assemble Renault Trucks from CKD’s at Thika, and which the French Ambassador said would create 200 skilled jobs in the country.

Also at the launch, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary at the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives, Peter Munya, spoke of the government plans to increase manufacturing’s share of the economy through the formulation of policies and tax incentives that would secure investments by auto manufacturers to set up more assembly plants in Kenya.

Looking to the future, Renault Trucks plan to launch a line of all-electric trucks, from 2019, for Europe, but sadly not for East Africa, yet.

M&A Moment: March 2018

Various merger/acquisition (M&A) deals in the last few weeks and months in East Africa since the last update.

Banking and Finance: Finance, Law, & Insurance M&A

Centum Investments is selling its shareholding in GenAfrica Asset Managers to Kuramo Capital LLC, an independent investment management firm based in New York City with offices in Nairobi and Lagos, and registered as an investment advisor by the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”).

Centum sold 25% of Platcorp Holdings to  Suzerian Investments a consortium of the Platcorp management team (platinum credit and premier credit) which provides emergency loans to individuals in  Kenya Uganda Tanzania while Premier offers working capital loans to companies – at a 31% return.

AfricInvest, a leading pan-African mid-cap-focused private equity firm invested in Britam Holdings Plc (Britam),  taking up a 14.3% stake. The investment was made in partnership with DEG-Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft mbH (DEG), The Dutch Development Bank FMO, and Proparco, a subsidiary of Agence Française de Développement (AFD), focused on private sector development.

Hamilton Harrison & Mathews Advocates (HH&M), one of Kenya’s oldest and largest law firm has entered into an agreement to combine with Dentons, the world’s largest law firm. Upon regulatory approval, HH&M will become part of Dentons, which is combining with seven elite firms in Africa, the Caribbean and South East Asia.

The Competition Authority of Kenya has authorized the proposed acquisition of control in AON Kenya Insurance Brokers by Extologix Proprietary through Heartland Holdings.

BitPesa, the first and largest blockchain payments platform for Africa and Europe, announced their acquisition of TransferZero, an international, online money transfer platform that specializes in sending money to consumers and companies in 200 countries using over 50 different currencies.

Mastercard has completed its acquisition of mobile payments technology company Oltio from Standard Bank Group. The acquisition builds on Mastercard’s longstanding relationship with Oltio’s technology enables consumers to authenticate Masterpass digital wallet purchases in South Africa using their bank PIN and mobile phone.

DEG – Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft mbH, is investing EUR 4 million in M-BIRR, a cashless money transfer and payment service in Ethiopia to improved access to banking services in Ethiopia on a wide scale. Other investors include the European Investment Bank (EIB). The Finnish development finance company Finnfund has been a shareholder in M-BIRR since as early as 2012 which is inspired by the success story of the Kenyan provider M-PESA.

The Competition Authority authorized the proposed acquisition of 100% of the issued share capital of Youjay’s Insurance Brokers by I & M Insurance Agency.  I&M Bank, through its subsidiary, I&M Insurance Agency, has completed the acquisition of Youjays Insurance Brokers. Founded in 1987, Youjays deals in life and non-life products and has 400 customers and has an insurance premium portfolio of Kshs 400 million.

Customers of Chase Bank were given an update by the Central Bank (CBK) and the Kenya Deposit Insurance Corporation (KDIC) on the ongoing takeover of selected assets and liabilities of their  bank by State Bank of Mauritius (SBM).

Food & Beverage M&A

A South-African based private equity fund has invested Sh404 million ($4 million) to acquire an undisclosed stake in Kenyan fast food chain Big Square. Uqalo says its investment will expand its footprint from the current nine stores to 30 over the next four years. Uqalo, which targets investments located in Kenya, Ethiopia and Nigeria, is primarily funded by Hong Kong-based supply chain and logistics conglomerate Fung Group and its strategy is to acquire minority stakes by investing between Sh202m and Sh506m ($2m and $5m) in “mature businesses” through equity or convertible debt (via Business Daily).

The Competition Authority approved the proposed acquisition of 100% shareholding in Nairobi Java House limited by Star Foods Holding

Wow Beverages  has made an application to enter into exclusive import arrangements with specified international and local manufacturers and suppliers of ‘premium’ wines and spirits in Kenya – from Gallo Vineyards Inc. trading as E&J Gallow Winery Europe, Vina San Pedro Tarapasca S.A, Felix Solis Avantis S.A, Afrique Interlink (PTY), Interlink (PTY) Limited, Edrington Group Limited and Tradall S.A (Bacardi-Martini Group).

Seaboard has made a low offer to buy out other minority shareholders of Unga.

The Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) Chebut factory is set to take over management of 260 acres of mature tea owned by the Nandi county government after the conclusion of ongoing negotiations.

Kenyan billionaire David Langat has acquired one of the largest tea farm in Tanzania in a deal that puts his company as one of the single largest tea producers in East Africa. Langat is thought to have paid a British firm, Rift Valley Corporation, close to Sh6 billion ($60 million) for a controlling stake, 99 per cent, in Mufindi Tea and Coffee Limited, Rift Valley Tea Solutions Limited and Kibena Tea Limited. The businessman owns Koisagat Tea Estate in Nandi and Kapchepet tea factory that processes CTC tea for export under his company D L Koisagat. He also runs Selenkei Investments Ltd, a company that generates electricity from solar energy plus the imposing Nyali Centre in Mombasa County as well as the Sunrise Resort in the same county.

Carnivore owner Tamarind acquires Kengeles: The Competition Authority has approved the deal with a notice that “The merger will not affect competition negatively; and the combined turnover of the parties for the preceding year, 2016, was Sh1,224,757,242. However, the target had a turnover of Sh94,067,983, which is less than Sh100 million, and therefore, the transaction meets the threshold for exclusion under the Merger Threshold Guidelines” (via the Business Daily).

Logistics, Engineering, & Agri-Biz M&A

Ascent Rift Valley Fund (ARVF), a leading SME Private Equity Fund investor will acquire a majority stake in Auto Springs East Africa, a Limuru-based factory that produces a wide range of products for the motor assembly and vehicle spare parts industry. It will be done in a partnership deal with SFC Finance.

Sendy, an app-based on-demand delivery services platform operating across Kenya, has completed a Series A investment round, led by DOB Equity. DOB Equity will invest alongside CFAO, member of the Toyota Group, and other private investors. DOB Equity says that the new funds will enable Sendy to increase their platforms’ service offering. This includes adding more delivery vehicles to their platform, increasing their coverage area, expanding the sales and technology team, and preparing for future expansion into neighboring countries in East Africa.

The owners of flower farm Karuturi Limited have secured an investor to inject fund into their business as they fight to save their priced asset from being auctioned by CfC Stanbic over Sh1.8 billion loan default. The firm in a statement said that it has reached an agreement with Phoenix Group for a ‘blend of debt and equity’ which will help it to meet its current debt obligations and restart its operations (Via Business Daily)

Ethiopia acquires 19% in Berbera Port becoming a strategic shareholder; UAE’s DP World has 51% while Somaliland gets 30% following the agreement being signed.

Trading on Express Kenya shares has resumed at the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) after a three-month suspension following a takeover bid by the firm’s CEO Hector Diniz. Diniz Holdings, an investment firm, has bid to acquire the 38.36% stake held by other shareholders other than its affiliates for Sh5.50 a share. (Via Business Daily).

The Competition Authority authorized the proposed acquisition of the entire issued share capital of Trillvane Ltd by Kuehne+ Nagel limited.

The Competition Authority authorized the proposed acquisition of Carzan Flowers (Kenya) limited by Star Bright Holdings.

The Competition Authority authorized the proposed acquisition by Diamond (bc) b.v. of the Diversey Care division of Sealed Air corporation (“sealed air”) and of Sealed Air’s food hygiene and cleaning business within its food care division.

The Competition Authority authorizes the proposed acquisition of 51% shareholding in Mavuno Fertilizers Limited by Omya (Schweiz) Ag.

Trans Miller Limited carrying on the business of food processing, packaging and distribution and other related agri-business activities, situate at L.R. No. 4953/1185, Thika, have been sold and transferred by the transferor to Tahuna Limited, who will carry on the said business of manufacturing under the name and style of Tahuna Limited.

Funguo Investments Limited has acquired a majority – 51% stake in Feastfoods Processors Limited, a food processing company that has been set up to manufacture fruit juice puree and concentrates in Kwale County (via Business Today)

The Competition Authority of Kenya excludes the proposed acquisition of 51% of the issued share capital of Ess Equipment Kenya Limited by Vronbisman Limited from the provisions of Part IV of the Act due to the following reasons as the acquirer does not operate in Kenya and the targets turnover for the preceding year 2017 was KSh. 79,314,330 and therefore, meets the threshold for exclusion under the merger threshold guidelines.

Airline/ Oil/Energy/Mining M&A

Kenya Airways PLC, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (KLM) and Societe Air France S.A (Air France) have made an application under section 25 (1) of the Act for the exemption of their proposed Agreement of Accession and Amendment to Joint Venture Agreement (proposed Amended JV) from the provisions of section• A of Part III of the Act. The application for exemption is for an indefinite period (as long as the amended N Agreement remains in force).1. The proposed Amended N agreement provides as follows —(a) the inclusion of Air France as a party to the Joint Venture Agreement (original JV agreement) between Kenya Airways and KU* and(b) that all references to KLM in the original JV be construed as a reference to both KLM and Air France.

There has been an ownership change at Safarilink as ALS Limited, one of the shareholders of the firm, sold its entire to Bridges Limited, a Ramco Group affiliate, and an existing shareholder. As a result of this private transaction, Captain Aslam Khan of ALS relinquished his position of chairman with Safarilink’s owners settling on Mr. Ngunze to steer the airline’s board (via Business Daily)

Ethiopian Airlines, the largest Aviation Group in Africa announced that it has finalized shareholders agreement with the Government of Zambia for the re-launch of Zambia Airways. The Government of Zambia will be the majority shareholder with 55% and Ethiopian will have 45% stakes in the airline – and this comes after another consolidation at Ethiopian.

Base Resources announced that it reached  agreement with World Titane Holdings whereby Base Resources will acquire an initial 85% interest in the wholly owned Mauritian subsidiaries of World Titane, which between them hold a 100% interest in the Toliara Sands Project in Madagascar. Base Resources will acquire the remaining 15% interest, with a further US$17 million payable on achievement of key milestones, as the project advances to mine development. The acquisition is to be funded by the A$100 million share offer currently underway, refer below for further details. Completion of the acquisition is expected to occur in late January 2018.

Investec Asset Management through its Africa Private Equity increased its investment in Mobisol with consortium partners the IFC and FMO. Mobisol, headquartered in Berlin deals with the energy demand from off-grid households and has operations in Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda where it has sold 110,000 systems benefiting over 550,000 people.

Following Total SA’s commitment, the Government has consented to a proposed acquisition of the issued and to-be-issued share capital of Maersk Oil Exploration International (Mogas Kenya) in respect of Blocks 10BA, 10BB and 13T. Earlier, Total had acquired Maersk Oil for $7.45 billion in a share and debt transaction.

Africa Finance Corporation and Harith General Partners (Aldwych Holdings) have merged their electricity generation assets into a new company – Anergi Holdings (includes Lake Turkana Wind Farm and Rabai Heavy Fuel plant in Kenya.

The competition Authority approved the proposed acquisition of indirect control of Savannah Cement by Benson Sande Ndeta. 

The Competition Authority approved the proposed acquisition of Associated Vehicle Assemblers by Simba corporation. 

Real Estate & Supermarkets M&A

Actis has agreed to sell its 79.5% majority stake in Mentor Management Limited a Kenyan project management company, to Turner & Townsend, a global construction and management consultant. The management team of MML will retain its minority stake. Actis acquired a controlling stake in MML in 2011 (Via Business Daily).

Mr. Price franchised business carried on by Deacons (East Africa) PLC will be transferred on or after 1st April, 2018 to MIRP Retail Kenya Limited  which will carry on the business.

Nakumatt Holdings and Tusker Mattresses have made an application under section 25 of the Act for the exemption of their proposed management services and loan Agreement for a period of three years.1. The terms of the agreement are that: Tuskys shall provide management services to Nakumatt including procurement and inventory management; Tuskys shall advance a loan to Nakumatt to provide it with emergency funding which shall be used to pay some of the outstanding amounts to employees and landlords; Tuskys shall provide recurring payment guarantees to the suppliers of the target to ensure the suppliers supply stocks to the following Nakumatt’s outlets: Village Market, Galleria, tikay Center, Lavington, Prestige, Mega, Highridge, Karen Crossoads, Ridgeways, Lifestyle, Embakasi, Garden City.

After 40 years, Makini Schools are being old to Schole Ltd, who will acquire all shares of Makini, and who will work with ADvTECH to enhance the quality of education as Makini continues with the Kenyan curriculum.

Telecommunications, Media & Publishing M&A

Kwesé has acquired a significant stake in iflix Africa, which will now form part of Kwesé’s diverse broadcast offering, as the core vehicle to deliver seamless mobile experiences to millions of viewers in Africa. Having set up operations in Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana and South Africa, iflix offers users the region’s most extensive collection of highly acclaimed local African and international series and movies, including first-to-market exclusive programming. This, in partnership with Kwesé’s broadcast operations and footprint, will create an exceptional mobile offering for consumers on the continent.

TPG Growth, the middle market and growth equity investment platform of global alternative asset firm TPG, announced today that it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire a majority stake in TRACE, the market leader in afro-urban music and entertainment. The remaining stake will be owned by TRACE’s co-founder and management team. TPG Growth will invest alongside Evolution Media and Satya Capital. As part of the transaction, MTG, a leading international digital entertainment group that invested in TRACE in 2014, will sell its stake in the company.

International Paper and Board Supplies carrying on the business of trading in printing and packaging materials and consumables at L.R. No. 209/11066, will transfer all its business, stocks and assets to The Print Store who intends to carry on the business from the aforesaid premises.

The Competition Authority authorizes the proposed acquisition of the entire issued share capital of Alldean Networks limited, Simbanet com limited and Wananchi telecom limited by Synergy.

Pressmaster carrying on the business of trading in printing and packaging materials and consumables at L.R. No. 209/12156, will transfer all its business, stocks and assets to Pressmaster Africa Ltd.

The Competition Authority authorized the proposed acquisition of the assets and business of International Paper and Board Supplies Limited by the Print Stores Limited, on condition that the acquirer absorbs not less than 45 out of the current 78 employees in the target business.

The Competition Authority authorizes the proposed acquisition of the entire issued share capital of Pressmaster Africa Limited by Ramco Plexus.

Edit From Tanzania where businessman Ali Mufuruki is seeking to increase his stake in Wananchi Group,  incorporated in Tanzania from 1% to 51% by acquiring 50% of the company, according to this notice (PDF) to Tanzania’s Fair Competition Commission.

Edit American Tower Corporation (ATC) has reached an agreement to acquire 723 telecommunication towers held by Telkom Kenya for an undisclosed amount. The deal, which is expected to be completed in the first half of 2018, will give the multinational a presence in the country, nearly a decade after making its maiden foray into East Africa through similar acquisitions in neighbouring Uganda and Tanzania. Read more

Other M&A

The Competition Authority authorized the proposed acquisition of 40% of the ordinary shares in AAH (BVI) limited by Oman Trading International with certain veto rights.

Nairobi-Mombasa Highway Transforms

For a long time, motorists on the road trip to Mombasa had endless savannah and semi-arid brush-land as their only view, with few sizeable towns and centres along the highway. Many travelers would drive the long stretch between Nairobi-Mtito Andei or even up to Voi, before deigning to stop for refreshments and use of sanitation facilities at what were mostly only petrol station joints. Many of the Colonial era taverns and Inns along the Highway had fallen either into disrepair or closed completely. And a night in Voi meant accessing the adjacent Tsavo East National Park to stay in Voi Safari Lodge.

Not anymore. Recent events have led to a great change in the landscape along the Highway. Sure the great vast ranches of Konza are still largely intact but urban development has become a major feature of the highway with numerous new centres expanding and what were once junction centres now turning into overnight stop points or places of bustling with 24-hour economic activity. A number of factors have contributed to these developments and are manifested in some of the features observed.

Konza City: Previously tiny centres such as Kyumvi (Chumvi) or the Machakos turnoff have now become major truck stops. Investors have established vehicle sales centres nearby and the price of land is sky rocketing going by rough quotations one receives. Further along is Malili centre which sprung up once news of the plan publicized by the grand coalition government about a new Technological (ICT) city to be built at Konza, that was meant to take away pressure of land and space from Nairobi. The city was touted as a Kenya’s Silicon Valley and out of nowhere, Malili town sprung up right next to the borders of the proposed, but yet to be built, Techno-City.

Standard Gauge Railway (SGR):  This is Kenya’s single largest investment in infrastructure. As is widely known, the project replaces the old Uganda Railway (also known as the Lunatic Line) from Mombasa to Uganda. The first phase starts from Mombasa to Nairobi with advanced plans to extend it first to Naivasha and then to Kisumu and Malaba. When the SGR is done, the railway will need return cargo i.e from Western Kenya or Nairobi to Mombasa to be viable, and to get more trucks off the road.

Whatever the merits or demerits of this project is not for debate here but what must be stated are the numerous economic activities and developments that have been brought about by this project.

As the SGR is constructed, groups of the thousands of workers involved must be watered, fed, housed, clothed, transported, treated and entertained along the route. This direct and multiplier effect of the project is an indication of heavy spending. Elevated sections of the railway are a sight to behold especially for one who has not travelled the route for a long time. Major site stations chosen include Makindu, a town whose most distinct feature is the Sikh Temple. A Skygo motor cycle assembly factory is one of the new investments set up by a local born and bred entrepreneur, while new entertainment joints such as Shushan Place and Oasis have emerged. emali

At Emali, Nakumatt, Kenya’s largest Supermarket chain by sales volume, products variety and retail outlets has deigned it fit to set up shop. The petrol station eateries of Mtito Andei which marks the half way stop between Nairobi and Mombasa have changed tremendously. Weary travellers alighting from luxury coaches can now relax in massage chairs. Voi town has also enjoyed a boom in construction of residential and commercial real estate that as previously unimaginable. These are all visible signs that there is money along the highway.

Oil Pipeline: Kenya is replacing its over 40-year-old Mombasa to Nairobi oil pipeline. This project has also attracted huge groups of workers contributing to the activity along the highways in camps and sections nearby.

Concrete Poles Not to be forgotten as a major activity is the replacement of old wooden electricity poles by the Kenya Power & Lighting Company with heavier concrete ones.Poles

Devolution: It is indeed true that devolution has brought major developments and investments in the towns along the highway. The County Governments have spent on setting up their structures and attempting to deliver services to their people; the heavy spending has indeed yielded change, and this has attracted new players even in the tourist sector at Tsavo. One such establishment is the Zomeni Lion Hill Lodge in Voi, 6 km outside town along the road to the Tsavo East National Park Gate which is run by the knowledgeable father and son duo of Basil and Agam. The lodge features 8 rooms and 4 tented rooms with delightful views of the vast Tsavo park. It is secured from wild animals by electric fence, and is one of the new joints that offer real variety to local and international tourists. There are two air strips ay Voi, one by KWS in the park

Lion Hill Conclusion: This article is not intended as a feel good piece but an appreciation of tremendous changes that have taken place along the highway. The writer has not spent time in many of the centres and towns to appreciate other factors such as the availability or lack of water, sanitation, waste management or security among others let alone whether much of this development is affordable, planned or sustainable.

But for long time travelers, it may be worth it skipping that flight to Mombasa and instead taking a day long drive and appreciate the changes that have taken place along the highway. Although the Mariakani Weighbridge headache is ever-present, newer routes into Mombasa or the South Coast are opening up. Both County and National Government are endeavoring to create alternatives through Kaloleni to the North Coast and Samburu to the South Coast.

Today’s children will never know what the old highway looked like before, e.g why Man-Eaters was named so, or appreciate that the drive down to the Coast used to be about five hours only (it now takes about 10 hours to drive between Nairobi and Mombasa)  or why is the lane going towards Mombasa is smoother than the uneven lane climbing towards Nairobi. But who else to tell the story than their parents when caught for speeding between Mtito-Andei and Voi by the NTSA?