Kenya seeks AU support on Sh2.5 trillion Lapsset project

The mega project launched in 2012 has faced financial challenges

In Summary

•A strong case has been made to the AU on the Lapsset project’s strategic position to connect the region and beyond

•Construction of the first berth at the Lamu port is complete with plans to have a private operator on course

AU envoy Raila Odinga with a delegation from LAPSSET at his Capitol Hill office on Tuesday, August 6, 2019.
AU envoy Raila Odinga with a delegation from LAPSSET at his Capitol Hill office on Tuesday, August 6, 2019.

The government has now turned to the African Union (AU) as it seeks investors and regional support for the Sh2.5 trillion Lamu Port-Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor (Lapsset) project.

Launched in 2012 during former President Mwai Kibaki's regime, the mega project has been marred with cash constraints and lack of political good-will which has slowed down its implementation.

Ethiopia is seen to have shifted focus to the port of Djibouti. Road and rail infrastructure between the two countries including the Ethio-Djibouti railway passenger and freight system, which commenced on January 1, 2018, seem to have also shifted interest away from the Lapsset corridor. 

It has now emerged the AU High Representative on Infrastructure Development Raila Odinga is keen to rally for support of the project.

According to the Lapsset Corridor Development Authority,  a strong case has been made to the AU on the Lapsset project’s strategic position to connect not only Ethiopia and South Sudan, but also connecting to Central African Republic (Bangui) and Cameroon, terminating at Port of Douala.

“AU’s special envoy plans to convene a high level meeting with the countries that fall along Africa’s equatorial land bridge later in the year with an aim of forming these crucial transport infrastructure linkages within the continent,” the authority said in a statement last week.

This was after a meeting with Odinga to discuss ways of strengthening support for Lapsset projects from AU and other international development institutions.

The AU special envoy has since noted that Lapsset corridor project has the potential to boost Africa’s regional social-economic integration through infrastructure development and trade.

“Regional infrastructure projects such as the Lapsset are strong enablers of Africa’s continental integration and these coupled with the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area, harmonization of monetary policies and other standards such as customs, stabilization of tariff and non-tariff barriers, statistics and labor market informationand improved business climate, will attract global trade and investments in Africa,” Odinga said.

The Lapsset corridor project is among the nine Presidential Infrastructure Championship Initiatives (PICI) under the AU.

Such projects are championed by respective African Heads of State and Government. It is also a Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), a strategic continental initiative which has the support of all African countries, for mobilizing resources to transform Africa through modern infrastructure.

The Kenyan government is putting up the first three berths of the planned 32 berths at an estimated cost of Sh71.5 billion. The entire 32 berths are estimated to cost US$3.1 billion (Sh319.8 billion).

Last week, the Lapsset authority announced completion of the first berth by the contractor–China Communication Construction Company (CCCC).

“What remains is equipping of the berth. Transaction advisory services were procured to package the port for private sector entry to operate the port,” the authority told the Star yesterday.

The seaport is among key projects lined up in the Lapsset Corridor, a trading route linking Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan aimed at easing the movement of goods along the corridor and reduce congestion at the port of Mombasa.

Other proposed Lapsset projects include a railway line, pipeline and highway connecting the three countries.

The project will also see the construction of an oil refinery, three airports including the expansion of Manda airstrip in Lamu and construction of resort cities in Lamu, Isiolo and Lake Turkana shores.

“Massive private sector interests have been registered to develop and operate the additional 29 berths as well as develop the new Lamu Port Industrial City making Lamu Port an ideal port for exporting locally manufactured goods,” Lapsset authority's director general Sylvester Kasuku has confirmed.

The project is among initiatives being counted on to boost intra-African trade currently at a low of 15 per cent, blamed on lack of sufficient regional infrastructure.