•Kenya leads the batch with the construction of the first three berths at Lamu Port, which are currently operational, and roads.
•Ethiopia and South Sudan have committed to the project.
Transport and infrastructure ministers from Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan have agreed to expedite implantation of projects under the Lamu Port-Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport (Lapsset) corridor.
This is in a renewed effort to actualise the Sh2.5 trillion project which was initiated 11 years ago.
Launched on March 2, 2012 by the then Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, late Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, and South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir, the project has faced challenges that include financing and lack of political goodwill.
The partner countries have however made efforts to implement some key aspects of the project, with Kenya leading the batch with the construction of the first three berths at Lamu Port, which are currently operational.
On the Kenyan side, Lapsset incorporates a 32-berths seaport at Lamu, 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.
Lamu Port has a bigger vessel handling capacity than Mombasa.
Its berths are 400 metres long compared to Mombasa’s 300 meters average while the depth at Lamu is up to minus 17.5 meters against 15 meters at the Port of Mombasa.
The government has invested Sh40 billion in constructing the initial three berths.
The port has the capacity to handle ships with a carrying capacity of up to 12,000 TEUs, compared to the 8,000 to 10,000 TEUs carrying capacity vessels that are calling at the Port of Mombasa.
Lamu can handle Post-Panamax ships. This are vessels that cannot pass the Panama Canal, with the word Post-Panamax being used to decribe world's biggest vessels.
Its natural depth and proximity to the open sea makes it potential for transshipment as it will attract lager vessels that cannot dock at Mombasa, according to the Shippers Council of Eastern Africa (SCEA).
Ministers from the three countries, joined by their counterparts from Cameroon and Central African Republic met in Juba for the Third LAPSSET Regional Ministerial Meeting May 17th-19th, to champion and push project implementation to the next level.
Lapsset Project was in June 2015 endorsed as a Presidential Infrastructure Champion Initiative Project during an AU-Heads of State and Government Orientation Committee meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa.
“We agreed to expedite the implementation of the Lapsset projects to unlock the full potential of the Lamu Port,” Kenya’s Roads and Transport CS Kipchumba Murkomen said.
The ministers, Madut Biar Yel (South Sudan), Ethiopia Finance Minister Eyob Tolina and Murkomen have since instructed a technical team to “urgently constitute a steering committee”, that will track the implementation of the Ministerial resolutions and agreed projects across the member countries.
According to the ministers, Lapsset partner states are creating stronger synergies to harmonise policies, standards and timelines in the project implementation.
The wider project is expected to promote trade and industrialization which will go along way in supporting the African Contented Free Trade Area.
Lamu Port, Isiolo Airport, highway sections and Moyale One Stop Border Post are completed projects whose operations if made efficient, will enhance the competitiveness and use of the Corridor, Kenya’s LAPSSET Authority notes.
“Lamu SEZ plan is underway, upon completion it will spur export trade of quality Kenyan products via Lamu Port,” it notes.
Ethiopia and South Sudan have committed to the project.
There have been concerns that infrastructure projects with Ethiopia’s Northern neighbours, mainly Djibouti and Eritrea, will affect investment decisions on Lapsset, something the government has dismissed and affirmed its commitment.
South Sudan on the other hand has completed a strategic plan for related projects with support from the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).
According to UNECA, they have agreed on roads, power and agriculture as the first three priority projects to be implemented for South Sudan.
“South Sudan and Ethiopia have taken Lapsset very seriously,” UNECA Technical Advisor and Consultant to South Sudan on Lappset-South Sudan Institutional and Projects Development, Sylvester Kasuku, told the Star on the telephone.
According to the former Lapsset director general and CEO Silvester Kasuku, the 500-kilometre road from Isiolo to Moyale, as well as the 500-kilometer road from Moyale to Hawasa, has been completed.
Ethiopia has upgraded the road from Hawassa to Addis Ababa into a motorway, easing movement of traffic.
It has kicked off the establishment of agro-processing industrial zones along the corridor, such as sugar industrial investment.
Mining concessions are also looking to export materials from Ethiopia through Lamu Port.
Kenya continues to develop its infrastructure from the Lamu Port to borders with Ethiopia and South Sudan, including the Lamu-Garissa-Isiolo and Lokichar roads.