Inside Kenya’s multibillion scrap metal underworld

Inside Kenya's multibillion scrap metal underworld

As Nairobi Expressway takes shape with finishing touches, a metal fence is being erected at sections of the Sh67 billion road; in what would be every scrap metal dealer’s dream if a ban on the trade was not in place.

A lucrative scrap metal trade is funding vandalism that had become so daring the culprits are filling away at public roads and carting away anything made of steel including lampposts, road barriers and even a footbridge.

A spot check by the Business Daily along the busy Haile Selassie Avenue in Nairobi shows the barricade that separates lanes moving in opposite directions has been torn away, and now pedestrians cross the street at undesignated points oblivious of the dangers of speeding cars.

The rods that would have acted as restraints are clipped from the root, it’s hard to tell there was ever a barrier in some sections.

All that is left of a nearby footbridge linking Muthurwa Market to the opposite side of the road is an ugly skeleton –only with most of its bones missing.

In downtown Nairobi on Landhies, Ring Road, and Jogoo Road, the mess is replicated –as it is across the city. So grave is the situation that where such fixtures have been demolished, the authorities no longer replace them.

Then there’s the road infrastructure. Take Outer Ring Road, for instance, one of the newest in the capital. Between Kariobangi Roundabout and Allsops, a nine-kilometre stretch characterised by dangerous bends, few street lamps are operational anymore, only four years after the Sh4.6 billion road was launched.

Driving along the road at night is an extreme sport. Here, guardrails lie all over, detached from the barrier and waiting to be carted away to scrapyards. Shaky regulations

For three weeks, the Business Daily has engaged industry stakeholders in an attempt to piece together the value chain of scrap metal dealerships in the country. We discovered that a toxic mix of shaky regulations and even feebler enforcement is the fulcrum around which vandalism revolves.

Fanning the madness even further is an insatiable demand for steel, with greedy traders and desperate collectors, some willing to go to any lengths to obtain steel.

By the time President Uhuru Kenyatta banned trade in scrap metal last month, the government had been hit below the belt. In the last nine years, Uhuru’s administration has spent more than a trillion shillings to put up new and refurbish existing road, rail and other hard […]

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