The government of Kenya and the African Development Bank have signed agreements totaling $366 million in financial aid for two projects: a geothermal steam field and a road upgrade, which will open landlocked Ethiopia to the Indian Ocean port of Mombasa. 

Kenya’s finance minister, Njeru Githae, and the African Development Bank (AfDB) regional director for East Africa, Gabriel Negatu, signed the agreements on March 12.

Of the total assistance, a $186.7-million loan from the AfDB group’s African Development Fund will go for converting what is now a 122-kilometer gravel road to an asphalt-paved highway. The upgraded road segment, from Turbi to Moyale, will include bridges and a drainage system. It will have two lanes up to seven meters wide in each direction as well as shoulders.

Separately, AfDB is funding improvements to a 198-km road section in Ethiopia, from Hawassa to Ageremariam, which will connect with the Turbi-Moyale segment. 

Kenya and Ethiopia have a combined population of 100 million and share a 1,000-km-long border but have no all-weather roads. The road from Nairobi to Ethiopia’s Addis Ababa, including the Turbi-Moyale and Hawassa-Ageremariam stretches, has an estimated 700 missing links.

For example, poor highway conditions have hampered Ethopia's coffee shipments. In January, Ethiopia moved ahead of Colombia to become the world’s third-largest coffee producer.

Once completed, the highway projects will expand Ethiopia’s access to international markets and assist in integrating eastern Africa economies. 

With the road improvements, trade volumes within eastern and southern Africa are projected to rise 25%, and trade between Kenya and Ethiopia will leap by 200% over five years, according to AfDB.