The busy Narok-Sekenani highway that was commissioned to bitumen standards is perhaps one of the best things that have happened in Narok County in recent times. Dust is fast disappearing as more kilometers are tarmacked.
The road commissioned in April of 2017 by President Uhuru Kenyatta is an indisputable evidence of the fruits of devolution. However, further to the east, about 88 KM off the highway, the picture is totally different.
A steep rough road that only fuel guzzlers and high capacity cars can conquer and the dried up seasonal rivers that have left cracks and huge rocks laying across, in others words, it’s a driver’s worst nightmare.
If you decide to walk all the way to Otulele village in Enkutoto sub location, the dust will make you review your life choices at some point.
Otulele village, a relatively silent area compromised of just a few scattered Maasai Manyattas and a few classroom blocks harboring Enkutoto Primary School, behind the school stands an imposing telecoms mast.
The telecoms mast, Jackeline Twarari, a resident says has brought a new breath of life to her village. Three months ago she’d have to trek through 19 km to Naroosura shopping center just to make a simple phone call, and even then, her call wasn’t guaranteed as the network coverage in the area was poor and kept fluctuating, so sometimes she still had to trek further through the scorching sun to find the next center and try her luck.
“It costs four hundred shillings to travel to Naroosura via Boda Boda, we don’t have much money here so we usually had to walk,” she says.
She recalls one night in September of last year when her son Gideon (3) suddenly fell sick, pneumonia! She guessed. The local Boda Boda operator wouldn’t accept payment on credit to ferry them to Naroosura health center and the lack of cellular network in the area meant she couldn’t call her husband who worked in Mara at the time, to finance this operation.
Her only painful option was to wait till dawn and hope that she doesn’t lose her child.
Another victim of this unfortunate situation was 21 year old Joel Konyo, another resident of Otulele and a student of Nyeri Technical Training Collage, pursuing an ICT course. The young lad had to trek about 21km to access his institution’s student-results portal.
He hated the days when he would trek all the way just to discover that his results weren’t out yet, which meant he’d have to plan for a similar 21km trip a second time and maybe a third time.
“But with the mast now installed, the network has greatly improved,” he says. Joel can now chat up his classmates in Nyeri via WhatsApp, check his results online, all from the comfort of his father’s manyatta; which this writer had the privilege of being hosted.
The Telecoms mast which supports both 2G and 3G networks was commissioned three months ago by Safaricom as part of Communications Authority’s (CA) Universal Service Fund (USF) which was set up to incentivize mobile operators to put up base stations in marginalized areas that are not economically viable. Enkutoto Sub location is one of such areas.
“The mast will cover up to five thousand people, we are happy to see that the fund’s purpose of covering the unserved and underserved areas has started bearing fruit, and we will continue pursuing this all over the country” said Dr Catherine Ngahu, Chairperson of the Universal Service Advisory Council (USAC), during inspection of the Enkutoto mast.
Through its promise to transform lives everywhere it sets foot, Safaricom has so far commissioned 37 base stations out of the 48 it had bid under CA’s Universal Service Fund (USF), effectively contributing to almost half of the Ksh 4 Billion set aside for the fund.
Telkom Kenya has so far commissioned 12 of the 14 base stations it bid. Despite its tough talk to have Safaricom declared dominant, Airtel Kenya did not bid for any base stations, which raises questions on the validity of its push for a declaration of dominance.
Among other areas where Safaricom has unleashed its magic under the Universal Service Fund (USF) include; Suguta Valley in Baragoi, Mageta Island, Mbooni forest and Mkondoni in Kilifi county.