Construction of the first berth of the Sh30 billion Dongo Kundu free port and economic zone is set to start, giving employment hopes to hundreds of youths who have lost transportation jobs to the Standard Gauge Railway.
Kenya Ports Authority managing director Daniel Manduku said the project's feasibility study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is about to be concluded.
“In conjunction with the Trade and Industrialisation ministry, we have identified 3,000 acres owned by KPA where we shall develop a Free Economic Zone.
"Soon we shall launch the construction of the first berth of Dongo Kundu port which will be connected to the second phase of the Sh30 billion Dongo Kundu bypass," he said on the sidelines of the International Association of Maritime Economists conference in Mombasa.
The project will create more than 1,000 direct jobs and at least 2,000 indirectly, he added.
"The project among other initiatives will create thousands of jobs, set up about 1,000 light industries and spur growth in the port city of Mombasa,” Dr Manduku said, adding that he expected the port to handle increased local exports.
“In developing the Special Economic Zones, we shall be encouraging the private sector to set up industries. The targeted area is enough to accommodate about 1,000 of them. Those who have been lamenting that they are losing the port business because most of the goods are destined for Nairobi can now think of investing in the Dongo Kundu Free trade project so that they can also benefit,” he said.
The free trade zones will have conferencing facilities to tap into the hospitality sector, according to KPA’s head of corporate development and strategy Martin Mutuku.
“The construction of berth one at Dongo Kundu port is what we shall begin with before the other projects come into force. The Trade and Industrialisation ministry will carry out the rest of the projects. They will deal with the water connection from Mwache dam and also be in charge of the power and electricity connection to the project,” he said.
Mr Mutuku added that the ministry through the Special Economic Zones Authority will oversee the establishment of the industrial park and that the port would operate like the Dubai Free Port, where traders bring in their cargo, repackage and export it.
The project also includes construction of a 19-kilometre road and bridge project to open up the South Coast by removing dependence on the Likoni ferry.
The building of the road dubbed second phase of Dongo Kundu bypass is awaiting approval from the Attorney General’s office, although President Kenyatta had earlier indicated work was to start in August.
President Kenyatta opened the first phase of the Sh11 billion Dongo Kundu bypass two months ago.
The special economic zone is part of Vision 2030 aimed at creating more jobs in the region.
The project will also have tourism parks, enterprise areas and a natural gas power plant among other things.
Other amenities to be built under the special economic zone are: free port, trade zones, industrial parks, meetings and conference areas, service areas, power transmission lines, residential units, Mombasa Southern Bypass road and a utility area.