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Port, railway revamp spell hope for EAC trade

Thursday June 04 2020
port

The entrance of the rehabilitated Kisumu Port. PHOTO | TONNY OMONDI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By JUSTUS OCHIENG'
By RUSHDIE OUDIA

The revamping of the Sh800 million Kisumu port, coupled with the rehabilitation of the old railway lines in the larger western region, now spells hope for regional trade between Kenya and other EAC States.

Lack of supporting infrastructure had posed the biggest threat to the success of the port, but with the government’s commitment to repair the old railway system to the lakeside city, there is hope that the viability of the project would be guaranteed.

President Kenyatta said that ports are gateways to regional and international markets, and hence their rehabilitation is a positive move towards resuscitating regional trade.

“Apart from the port of Lamu, which will change regional trade dynamically, the other project is the port of Kisumu.

“This port was built by the colonisers, but it collapsed at some point. We have since revived it for strategic purposes. Lake Victoria serves both the Northern and the Southern corridors,” he stated in his speech during the 57th Madaraka Day celebrations at State House, Nairobi.

President Kenyatta said that with the refurbished Kisumu port, Kenya can serve the region from Mwanza and Bukoba in Tanzania, to Jinja and Entebbe in Uganda; and Muhoma Bay in Rwanda at affordable costs and decent timing.

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“Beyond serving the region, the port is poised to promote the ship-building and repair industry in Kenya,” he said.

It will also catalyse the development of other small ports, the President added.

Apart from Kisumu port, others targeted are Muhuru and Sori in Migori County; Mbita, Kendu and Homa Bay in Homa Bay County; Sio and Victoria in Busia County; and Asembo, Luanda Kotieno, Misori and Usenge in Siaya County.

More than 400 servicemen had already been deployed to clear and renovate houses at the port, Luanda Kotieno, Asembo Bay and other smaller ports before the coronavirus hit.

“And what I am proud of most is that we revived the dead capital in this port (Kisumu) using local expertise and material,” the President said.

Even before its official launch, the revamped port had started transporting fuel to Uganda using the MV Uhuru.

It is one of East Africa’s biggest cargo vessels that broke down 13 years ago and will fully resume operations to Uganda and Tanzania.

The Energy ministry had also completed building the Sh1.9 billion Kisumu oil jetty and is making it viable once Uganda’s docking facilities are completed.

The jetty that was completed in March 2018 but had to wait for Uganda to build a four million-tonne barge on its part of the Lake Victoria shore to evacuate oil from the Kenyan side.

The projects are part of the Lake Victoria intermodal transport system intended to exploit the lake as a cheaper, safer and more efficient transport corridor and integrate it with the Northern Corridor’s road and rail networks from Mombasa.

A World Bank report commissioned by the Ugandan government to find out the viability of the transport business around Lake Victoria in 2016 blamed the dwindling fortunes around the lake basin region on lack of railway links.

The rail and ferry network on Lake Victoria was in a serious state of repair and that most cargo was transported by road around the lake.

But the Kenya Railways Corporation has embarked on major plans to repair the old railway lines in the larger western region in a bid to resuscitate the economic fortunes of the region.

While the move is being viewed as part of the major plan to link the Nakuru line to the Kisumu port, the corporation said it was also positioning itself to facilitate networking of counties that are keen on establishing economic zones.

Among the lines being targeted for a facelift are Nakuru-Kisumu, Butere, Eldoret and Kitale.

Already KRC had given an eviction notice to people who have encroached on railway land, urging them to leave or be forcibly removed.

KRC managing director Philip Mainga told the Nation earlier that the notices had been issued and tenants required to pave the way for the revitalisation and operation of the Kisumu-Nakuru railway.

“We were removing people from the corridor, checking where there was vandalism and assessing the cost implication in regards to revitalising the old lines,” he said.

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