Before plans for Nairobi-Ruiru-Thika Superhighway had been drawn up, few would have imagined that this grand infrastructure project, one of the key planks of Kenya's Vision 2030, would led to a complete transformation of Nairobi. That is exactly what the $317m, 50-kilometre Nairobi-Ruiru-Thika Superhighway, which links Nairobi and the industrial and agricultural towns of Ruiru and Thika, has been doing.
Construction of this highway began in January 2009 and is being undertaken by three Chinese construction giants - China Wu Yi, Shengli and Sino Hydro. The key objective for the road expansion was to decongest the city and reduce the numerous traffic snarl-ups associated with this road, which is estimated to carry 70,000 vehicles daily, transiting between Nairobi and the countryside.
A real estate boom had not been anticipated in the early stages. Thirty months into the construction of the highway and multi-million-dollar, classy residential areas, well-planned mini-cities are becoming the norm. Tatu City, Migaa, Fourways Junction, Thika Greens Golf Estate, Flame Tree, Oakfield Valley, Jacaranda Gardens are among other revolutionary suburbs are already under construction. These domains are not only novel in their approaches and designs but mark a significant change-of-user shift from agriculture to residential homes.
Hitherto lush green coffee and sisal ranches are giving way to high-end residential areas and a shift of location for Kenya's middle-and upper-class homes with the credo of 'live, work and play' all within the same vicinity.
"Coffee growing was the main economic activity of the area. But in recent years, housing developments have sprung up in Kiambu and the town is seeing the area rapidly losing its heritage; many coffee farms have been sold to developers, who have entirely eliminated coffee in favour of real estate," Raymond Kanno, the project manager of Home Afrika Communities, says.
Home Afrika is undertaking a massive conversion of the former 775-acre Migaa Coffee Estate within the Kiambu county to make way for luxurious duplexes to cater for some 4,000 residents. Migaa, which is 20 minutes drive from central Nairobi, was originally five individual coffee estates, namely Gituamba, Migaa, Gakomo, Matandi and Waitangi. They belonged to the Twist and Finlay families, until they were sold to Brooke Bond in 1971 and merged into one estate.
"The growth of suburbs and commercial nodes along the Thika...