Kenya has opened its new $360m Nairobi-Thika superhighway, which is set to boost trade in the East African region.

The 50km-long eight-lane superhighway runs from the city of Nairobi to the borders of Thika town, and is a vital commercial and transport corridor.

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki said that the new expressway is the first modern highway infrastructure in Kenya’s history and assists the country in achieving its goal of reaching middle-income status by 2030.

A part of the Great North Trans-African Highway that stretches from Cape Town to Cairo, the project was jointly funded by Kenya, the African Development Bank (AfDB) and China.

Of the total $360m, the largest share of $180m was financed by AfDB, followed by Exim Bank of China with $100m, while the remaining $80m came from the Kenyan Government.

"The new expressway is the first modern highway infrastructure in Kenya’s history."

AfDB president Donald Kaberuka said that the Nairobi-Thika superhighway will contribute to the attainment of inclusive growth in the region to a great extent by reducing the cost of doing business in the country.

The road connects commercial destinations Isiolo, Marsabit, Moyale and Mandera to Nairobi, and also caters to commuters who travel everyday to work in secondary and tertiary sectors within Nairobi city’s Central Business District (CBD).

Other beneficiaries of the project include transport operators, non-motorised road users, horticultural and dairy farmers, local administrations and social service providers working in the districts of Murang’a, Maragwa, Kirinyaga, Embu, Meru and Nyeri.

The project was approved by AfDB in November 2007 and the works started in January 2009.