According to wholevehicles, Kenya has the most developed road network in East Africa, with a paved road network of approximately 12,200 kilometers in 2021. The national road network is divided into three classes, the S roads, these are motorways, the A roads, these are the main highways. In 2021, 6,830 kilometers of this was covered, of which 4,975 kilometers were paved and 1,855 kilometers unpaved. The B-roads are then the most important roads and comprise 14,713 kilometers, of which 7,202 kilometers were paved and 7,511 kilometers unpaved in 2021.
Paved roads reach almost all parts of the country and the road network is based radially around the capital Nairobi, with major roads running in all directions except the southwest. There are two motorways, the A2 between Nairobi and Thika and the Nairobi Southern Bypass. Also running from Nairobi are some 2×2 roads that are partly grade separated with a relatively modern design standard. In the capital Nairobi, almost all streets are paved, something that is fairly unique for sub-Saharan Africa. Also in the second city of Mombasa, the road network is relatively modern compared to the region. In the east there are less paved roads, and often the main roads are not paved, such as those to Somalia. There are paved roads to the borders with Tanzania, Uganda, South Sudan and Ethiopia. Some roads are toll roads.
Highways in Kenya
Motorways in Kenya are formally ‘S’ class roads, but are currently signposted with their A number. The first S-class road was the A2 between Nairobi and Thika, a 40-kilometer highway with 2×3 to 2×4 lanes and frontage roads. In addition, there are two-lane roads in Nairobi that are not formally highways. Some of these are highway-like, most notably the Nairobi Southern Bypass. The Nairobi Expressway is a toll road on flyovers along the center of Nairobi.
- According to Abbreviationfinder, Nairobi is the capital of Kenya.
Kenya’s national road authority is the Kenya National Highway Authority (KeNHA). It was created with the Kenya Roads Act of 2007. KeNHA is responsible for the management, maintenance and modernization of all national trunk roads, these are the S, A and B roads.
In addition, there is the Kenya Roads Board that coordinates and finances road projects. In 1993, the Road Maintenance Levy Fund (RMLF) was created to provide a continuous source of funding for Kenya’s road network. The Kenya Roads Board (KRB) was established in 2000.
There is also the Kenya Rural Roads Authority (KeRRA). This agency was established at the same time as KeNHA to carry out road development in rural areas.
The umbrella ministry is the Ministry of Transport Infrastructure, Housing, Urban Development and Public Works.
|Major Roads in Kenya|
|A1 • A2 • A3 • A4 • A5 • A6 • A7 • A8 • A9 • A10 • A11 • A12 • A13 • A14Dongo Kundu Bypass Highway • Nairobi Expressway • Nairobi Southern Bypass|
The A8 north of Nairobi.
The A2 between Nairobi and Thika.
Kenya’s road network was developed quite early during the British colonial period. The route from Mombasa to Uganda was always the most important connection, Mombasa was the port and original capital, agriculture was possible in the highlands of Kenya. It was discovered that the land here was very suitable for growing coffee and tea. This led to the development of a fairly large network of roads for agriculture.
In 1890 the Mackinnon-Sclater Road was started, a more than 1,000 kilometer long road from Mombasa to Busia on the border with Uganda. Suitable for bullock carts, this road was Kenya’s primary transport route for several years, but its importance was soon taken over by the construction of the Uganda Railway.
In the British colonial period a number of more important roads were built, some of which were already paved. Nairobi quickly grew into the dominant city in Kenya in the early 20th century and was the main road junction. The Mombasa – Nairobi – Kampala axis remained the dominant link, but a road from Nairobi to Arusha was also established as the primary link to Dar es Salaam, a road from Nairobi to the Ethiopian border, passing through Isiolo and Wajir, and a road from Nairobi to Garissa and on to Somalia. To the northwest of Kenya, however, there were no roads open to motor vehicles.
In 1963 Kenya became independent, inheriting the best road network in East Africa. Due to productive agriculture, there was an extensive network of roads in the highlands of western Kenya, which were partially paved. In 1967 the East African Community was established, a partnership of Kenya with Uganda and Tanzania. International road numbering was also introduced in this partnership. Their main numbered roads in Kenya were the A104 and A109.
In the 1970s, the Nairobi region in particular developed, where the first dual carriageway to the airport was built in 1978. Later, the road from Nairobi towards the northwest was also doubled and partly made grade separated (the present-day A8). Most major roads in southwestern Kenya were paved in the 1980s-90s. The north and east of Kenya, however, lagged far behind, here there were no paved roads at all. International connections to Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia were also no more than dirt roads where the travel time was expressed in days.
More recent period
The situation of the road network improved substantially after 2010. In 2009, 59% of the roads were in poor condition, in 2018 this was still 37%. In 2012, Kenya’s first modern highway, the A2 between Nairobi and Thika, opened. Important projects were the asphalting of the A2 to Ethiopia and the A1 to South Sudan. These were major projects in which hundreds of miles of road were built through remote desert terrain. In 2016 the Nairobi Southern Bypass opened. Important decisions followed in 2015 and 2016. It became possible to carry out road construction through PPP, a 10,000 kilometer road program was set up to pave 10,000 kilometers of road and new road numbering was introduced. The target of 10,000 kilometers of paved road was achieved in 2021. In 2022, the Nairobi Expressway opened as a toll road through the city center.
Kenya’s road network was classified in 2016. Two road classes have been defined in this network, namely the National Trunk Roads and the County Roads, numbered with the prefix A, B, C, D, E, F & G.
The A and B roads are mostly paved, except in remote areas. This numbering system is based on the British system. Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda used to have an integrated numbering system, which explained why so few single-digit A roads passed through Kenya and why major routes had 3-digit numbers.
Road numbering since 2016
- A1 Ibd Nakadok – Lodwar – Kitale – Bungoma – Kisumu – Migori – Ibd Isebania: 892 km
- A2 Ibd Namanga – Athi River – Thika – Sagana – Nanyuki – Isiolo: 870 km
- A3 Thika – Garissa – Ibd Liboi: 520 km
- A4 Gilgil – Nyahururu – Maralal – South Horr – North Horr – Illeret: 765 km
- A5 Emali Ibd – Loitokitok: 114 km
- A6 Ibd Taveta – Voi: 113 km
- A7 Ibd Lunga Lunga – Mombasa – Lamu: 428 km
- A8 Ibd Malaba – Eldoret – Nakuru – Nairobi – Voi – Mombasa: 923 km
- A9 Subuiga – Meru – Kanyonyo – Kitui – Kibwezi: 398 km
- A10 Lokichar – Nginyang – Isiolo – Garissa – Lamu: 970 km
- A11 Lamu – Kiunga: 107 km
- A12 Ibd Busia – Kisumu – Kericho – Mau Summit: 228 km
- A13 Sibli – Modogashe – Wajir – El Wak Rhamu – Mandera: 636 km
- A14 Moyale – Buna – Wajir – Dif: 386 km
Road numbering for 2016
- A1 Isebania (gr. Tanzania) – Kisumu – Webuye – Lodwar – Lockichokio (gr. Sudan): 1,000 km
- A2 Nairobi – Thika – Isiolo – Moyale (gr. Ethiopia): 800 km
- A3 Thika – Garissa – Liboi (gr. Somalia): 530 km
- A14 Mombasa – Lunga Lunga (gr. Tanzania): 100 km
- A23 Voi – Taveta (gr. Tanzania): 120 km
- A104 Nairobi – Namanga (gr. Tanzania): 160 km
- A109 Nairobi – Mombasa: 490 km
The signage is identical to that in the UK Textual signs are in English.