Road Construction Fuels Growth of Traffic Safety Solutions in Kenya

By Shem Oirere, Africa Correspondent | May 8, 2013

Paint and coatings players in Eastern Africa’s largest economy, Kenya, have woken up to more business opportunities in recent months.

Paint and coatings players in Eastern Africa’s largest economy, Kenya, have woken up to more business opportunities in recent months after the country embarked on a rapid road expansion and improvement program to accommodate increasing cargo and passenger traffic volumes and improve safety on the roads.

Construction of new roads, expanding existing ones and improving the status of other road signage has triggered an expansion in the manufacture of appropriate traffic safety solutions such as road marking paints, road studs, pavement markers and new partnerships to achieve quality and safer roads.
In addition, extending of the road network by the Ministry of Roads has also opened a new window for the supply of road markings equipment.

Kenya, with 93 percent of cargo and passenger traffic relying on road transport, has a road network of more than 160,800 kilometers long. This includes 16,544 kilometers of National Roads, managed by the Kenya National Highways Authority; 12,549 kilometers of urban roads under the Kenya Urban Roads Authority; and an estimated 131,794 km of rural roads under Kenya Rural Roads Authority.

The road network has approximately 61,936 kilometers, which are classified and 98,950 kilometers, which remain unclassified.
Several agencies under the Ministry of Roads are undertaking the road construction and improvement program with funding from national government and donors.

The Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA), which manages, develops, rehabilitates and maintains national roads, has the largest share of the highways that have either gotten a brush of the road marking paints or are in the process of being marked.
The state-agency has just finalized the road marking of an estimated 476 kilometers of roads across the country with hot thermoplastic, a project financed by revenues from the Road Maintenance Levy Fund, managed by another state-agency, Kenya Roads Board. KeNHA has also installed reflective studs on the highways.
One of the landmark projects by KeNHA, is the 52-kilometer Thika Superhighway linking Kenya’s capital Nairobi to the satellite town of Thika and which is financed by the African Development Bank, the government of Kenya and Exim Bank of China. The $330 million highway is part of the larger Nairobi-Addis Ababa Highway, which is a section of the Trans Africa Highway running from Cape Town in South Africa to Cairo in Egypt.

In addition to installation of gantry road signs, flexi-beam guard rails, KeNHA has also deployed “world class road markings” to enhance road safety.

“The completed eight lane superhighway which is the first of its kind in East and Central Africa, took 42 months to be constructed to its current magnificent status,” said KeNHA in a previous project briefing.
In the current financial year, the government has unveiled a $1.4 billion (Sh124 billion) road expansion plan, which is up from the previous year’s $1.2 billion (Sh104.3 billion.) Several projects have been identified and earmarked for completion by 2015.
“We are continuing to improve the general conditions of our highways, urban and rural roads,” said outgoing finance minister Njeru Githae.

Several factors are driving the expansion and improvement of the road network in Kenya, key among them being the creation of a conducive investment environment and reduction of poverty levels in this country of 40 million people.
Furthermore, the government has been keen on reducing road accidents, which currently kill an estimated 3,000 people every year. To improve road safety, paved roads are being marked with thermoplastic road marking paint while well-marked studs now dominate the unpaved roads.

Kenya police traffic department report an estimated 3,000 people die every year in road accidents. The department’s head, Benson Kibui, said in 2012, at least 3,097 people were killed in road accidents, a slight fall from 3,249 the previous year.
Paint makers are seeking out ways of meeting the demand created by this road expansion spree. Eastern Africa’s two market leaders in the paints and coatings industry Basco Paints and Crown Paints have grabbed the opportunity provided by the increasing investment in the road sector to launch and expand supply of thermoplastic road marking paint.
Already Basco Paints is executing a deal with global traffic safety solutions provider Ennis Prismo for the distribution of the latter firm’s   road marking paint.

Basco has the exclusive right to distribute U.K.-based Ennis Prismo’s thermoplastic paint in Kenya.

“The introduction of Ennis Prismo road marking paints is a great value addition to the Kenyan road industry,” said Basco Paints CEO Kamlesh Shah. “The thermoplastic paints offer better reliability, visibility at night and lasts between two to three years compared to the six months of other road markings.”

“Most of the accidents on the roads are caused by poor markings and road signs that confuse drivers leading them to make mistakes,” said outgoing Roads Minister Franklin Bett. “Future road markings feature reflective road studs that improve road visibility especially at night.”

Ennis Prismo said contractors using its products should be assured of “the quality of the paint and durability was suitable for the Kenyan market.”

The U.K.-based company, one of the world’s largest road products manufacturers with over 100 years experience in the industry, manufacturers road marking products, traffic products, decorated surfacing and surface safety solutions.
“Ennis Prismo Thermoplastic road marking paint is a new generation highway marking system, preferred the world over, for its ease of usage and extended life cycle as compared to other thermoplastic and conventional solvent based paints,” said Shah.
According to a previous statement by Basco, the traffic safety solution by Ennis Prismo  is developed on performance-based benchmarks and is manufactured under the code BSEN 1436. It was introduced 20 years ago after the BS3262, which is a recipe-based road marking paint, was discontinued.

The profile of Prismo’s thermoplastic road marking includes that of having superior features such as durability, retro-reflectivity (visibility at night), flow resistance (ability not to melt when in high temperatures) and non-cracking abilities just to mention a few. In addition, they are guaranteed to last for a minimum of 2-3 years as opposed to current road markings that fade away after as little as 6 months.

Ennis Prismo Thermoplastic road marking paint can be done in three ways; extrusion, spraying or screed (hand pram). According to Shah, the paints will be available alongside the Stimsonite Road Studs also manufactured by Ennis Prismo and one of the best road marking studs manufactured. Research has proved that road marking goes a long way in increasing road safety on roads and is an indispensable part of road construction as opposed to an optional component.

According to another leading supplier of thermoplastic road marking paint in Kenya, Crown Berger Limited, the material is a formulation of plasticized resin, aggregate, pigment and glass beads supplied in powder form. Thermoline is heated and applied to the road surface where it rapidly cools and sets. The material consists of 100% solids and is environmentally friendly as it is solvent free.

Thermoline has unique characteristics, Crown Berger explained, such as being manufactured from synthetic resin in combination with pigment, extenders and retro-reflective glass beads. It is high retro-reflective performance, visibility and provide less traffic disruption during application and is fast drying.
The paint product has been made to fit the unique physical and environmental conditions prevailing in a region like Eastern Africa and particularly Kenya.

For example, it combines titanium dioxide for ultra white visibility and durable chromes for bright yellow lines with extending pigments for uniform coloring throughout the coated surface, Crown Berger explained.  The material also has plasticized hydrocarbon resin for adaptability to extreme tropical climatic conditions, thermal stability and weather ability.

Crown Berger said the use of  spherical glass beads in making of thermoplastic road marking paint is critical in ensuring provision of exceptional reflectivity and visibility both during the day and night.

“Thermoline’s composition enables it to withstand Kenya’s wide variations in climatic and surface conditions, outlasting others,” the paint maker said.

Road safety has also been enhanced by the embedded glass beads, which, according to the company, make for a reflecting surface that makes road marking many times more visible, especially in darkness, enhancing road safety. Thermoline’s high concentration of aggregates resists skidding, in contrast with conventional marking paints, the company added.

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