Once a forgotten region with decades-long marginalisation by successive governments, Lamu County is now basking in glory following thanks to the Sh2.5 trillion mega project – The Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport (Lapsset) corridor project.
Lamu County, which is located in Kenya’s north Coast, is faced with a myriad of challenges ranging from insecurity, mainly from Al-Shabaab militants who have been attacking and killing civilians and security officers, to poor infrastructure since independence.
The county borders Tana River to the south-west, Garissa to the north, and touches war-tone Somalia on the north-east and the Indian Ocean to the south and east.
Despite the challenges the region faces, locals are optimistic and looking forward to the Lapsset project as their only saviour which will enable them recover from the poverty they are experiencing at the moment.
The Lapsset project, which is currently 40 per cent complete, is being implemented at Kililana in Lamu West Sub-County.
The total population of Lamu was estimated to be 101,539 in the 2009 population and housing census with an annual growth rate of 2.47 percent.
In 2014, the population was estimated to be 124,092 with most people being the youth, majority of whom are grappling with joblessness.
Locals believe that the Lapsset project has lots of goodies for the region especially for the youth who are now eager to get employment at the port.
EMPLOY 200 YOUTH
In a recent tour of the port site in Kililana, Lapsset Corridor Development Authority Chairman Francis Muthaura announced that the project has the ability to employ over 200 young people once completed.
However, Mr Muthaura said it would be unwise for any parent in Lamu to cry foul and claim their children have not been employed if they do not equip them with the necessary education and skills.
“This is a project that has the capacity to employ not less than 200 youth from this region and across the country. That is why I call on parents here in Lamu to be optimistic and educate their children. Education is the only key that will unlock the decades-old levels of poverty in which the people of this region have lived,” said Mr Muthaura.
Mr Muthaura’s announcement has positively impacted many residents, especially the youth who have already started joining various institutions to undertake port-related courses with their focus being put on the Lapsset project.
In addition, the government also introduced a Lapsset scholarship programme which has sponsored hundreds of local youth each year in various institutions in the country to undertake port-related courses.
So far over, 400 young people have benefited and graduated through the scholarship programme which is targeting 1,000 youth from Lamu.
“We have suffered long years of marginalisation. We are, however, confident the Lapsset project will end this. Lamu is now considered an important region both nationally and internationally since it houses the Lapsset project.
“With the Lapsset, we are very sure our roads will be constructed, youth will get employment and the government will also strive to end the insecurity challenge caused by Al-Shabaab in our region,” said Mr Mohamed Yusuf.
Lamu West MP Stanley Muthama says the county has a lot of potential in the Lapsset project and even the other intended projects including the Sh200 billion coal-fired power plant at Kwasasi, the Sh21 billion wind power project at Baharini, all in Lamu West, and the gas exploration project in Pate Island, Lamu East by Zarara firm.
“I encourage the youth to take advantage of the fact that these projects are still in their infant stages and go to school so that they can acquire skills in order to be employed once such projects commence in our county,” said Mr Muthama.
Acting Public Works PS Paul Maringa, during his tour of the Lapsset project site in November 2017, assured the Lamu people that the government’s intention to ensure at least 70 percent of the Lapsset job opportunities are given to the local youth.
“The Lapsset project is a huge investment by the government. It will come with [huge] employment opportunities and will absorb thousands of youth especially the locals who will have the skills to work in the various sections,” said Prof Maringa.
The construction of the Lapsset headquarters that cost the government Sh866 million and the port police station has so far been completed.
The Lapsset corridor project plan includes a 32-berth port, transportation hubs for rail, highway and international airports in Lamu, Isiolo and Lodwar, an oil pipeline from South Sudan, Uganda and Ethiopia to Lamu Port, an oil refinery and three resort cities in Isiolo, Lamu and Turkana.