The Port of Mombasa was lucky to survive the mistakes that had been made in the years before 2007, in particular the failure to develop the facility’s infrastructure in order to keep up with the growth in the quantity of cargo handled. This may not hold going forward given recent geo-economic and political developments. Unlike Kenya, our competing regional ports may have learned a vital lesson about the need to develop sufficient port infrastructure to keep up with future developments. They have been keen to create linkages with private sector capital. In Kenya, on the contrary, efforts to concession infrastructure development for ports in Kenya have been met with intense opposition from various actors.
Previously without an alternative, the landlocked countries of Uganda, South Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) had no option but to pay dearly for Kenya’s failure to develop its port infrastructure to keep up with the growth cargo. The lack of capacity reached crisis point in 2007 when the port experienced immense operational challenges. Dar es Salaam Port was then in a dire situation and had, indeed, relied on Mombasa Port to address its congestion problems by using Kenya as a transshipment port to avoid long delays for cargo destined for the Central Corridor – largely mainland Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, DRC, and Zambia.
Ethiopia, Lamu Port’s key target, has turned its focus on Berbera Port in Somaliland, which is set to become the most modern port in the Horn of Africa once it is completed. The Gulf states’ growing interest in the Horn of Africa region due to geopolitical and strategic considerations saw DP World enter into an agreement to develop and manage the facility for 30 years in May 2016. The total investment of the two-phase project will reach US$442 million. DP World will also create a free economic zone in the surrounding area, targeting a range of companies in sectors from logistics to manufacturing, and a road-based economic corridor connecting Berbera with Ethiopia. The port deal with Somaliland – a region that declared autonomy from Somalia in 1991 but which is still not internationally recognised by the international community – has increased Somaliland’s credibility as an independent state. Port Berbera is now the closest sea route to Ethiopia, an 11-hour journey by road. The port opens up opportunities for huge growth in the import and export of livestock and agricultural produce. DP World Group Port officials say that the port, which can currently handle 150,000 TEUs, will expand into handling one million TEUs of 20 and 40-foot mixed units. Ethiopia, Lamu Port’s key target, has turned its focus on Berbera port in Somaliland, which is set to become the most modern port in the Horn of Africa once it is completed.
In addition, Djibouti has undertaken extensive developments at its port, increasing efficiency at the Doraleh Terminal that handles over 90 per cent of the cargo that passes through the country. Djibouti International Free Trade Zone (DIFTZ) was officially opened in July 2018, creating major business opportunities for Djibouti and East Africa as the region’s export manufacturing and processing capacity is expanded in key sectors such as food, automotive parts, textiles, and packaging. The other regional port that has come under private management is Malindi Port in Zanzibar. In May this year, Africa Global Logistics (AGL) signed a contract to manage the container terminal at the port. Under the agreement, AGL will be responsible for cargo handling operations and marine services at the Malindi port. The company has also committed to investing in the modernisation and development of the port. AGL also plans to build an offloading area outside the port, which is needed to relieve the serious congestion at the port. Although the Kenyan government is overwhelmed by foreign debt, infrastructure projects that connect to the rest of the continent are crucial. There is a growing need to depoliticise the privatisation of the port and the hinterland infrastructure. Failure to consolidate our gains will see us lose our grip as the regional transit hub.
Read more at: GITHUA KIHARA - Why Kenya Risks Losing its Grip as the Regional Logistics Hub - The Elephant
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