Kenya and Ethiopia on Monday revisited building of major link infrastructure projects between the two countries.
This comes two years after the two sides signed a similar Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that was not implemented.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and Ethiopian Prime Minister (PM) Abiy Ahmed, on his first tour of Kenya since he became premier, announced they will focus on the development of the Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia Transport (Lapsset) corridor.
“They committed to the development of Lapsset, the Northern Corridor including road network between Isiolo, Moyale through to Addis Ababa and the railway from Addis Ababa to Nairobi,” a joint statement said.
“Both sides agreed to finalise the Ethiopia-Kenya interconnection transmission line. Both sides agreed to jointly supervise and inspect the Lamu-Garissa-Isiolo-Moyale and Moyale-Hawassa-Addis Ababa road networks.”
And while Dr Ahmed is new in his position, President Uhuru Kenyatta had announced a similar thing in June 2016, when then PM Hailemariam Desalegn made a state visit to Nairobi.
At the time, President Kenyatta told reporters at a joint press briefing that projects within Lapsset would be “fast-tracked.” They included link roads between the two countries, an international airport in Isiolo town and a sea port in Lamu.
Launched in 2012, the Lapsset project was estimated to cost at least Sh2trillion. But the cost of the projects was always going to be punitive and each country was to source financing, which meant further delays.
The seven portions of the project require an estimated $24.5 billion (Sh2.4trillion) with $3.1 billion footing the bill for the Lamu Port.
In 2016, Ethiopia and Kenya also signed an MoU on an oil pipeline. Yesterday, both countries did not mention it, but said each side will have specific responsibilities on ensuring Lapsset project continues.
“The Kenyan side will facilitate the formal acquisition of land in Lamu Port given to the Ethiopian government and the Ethiopian side reiterated its commitment to develop the land for logistical facilitation,” the MoU said.
But the countries also admitted weaknesses in funding, instead calling on the private corporates to take a hand in the projects.
“The two leaders strongly encouraged members of their respective private sectors to identify potential areas for engagement and pledged to continue improving the business environment and create maximum incentives for successful commerce.”
Already, the Isiolo Airport as well as the highway up to Moyale on the Kenyan side is complete.
The problem however remains with the political situation on both countries.
Dr Ahmed is new and has to rebuild his country’s stability following years of violence from regions on the south of the country, claiming oppressions.
The two leaders identified cross-border security challenges, exacerbated by vulnerable communities, as obstacles to sustainable peace.
They agreed to focus on inclusive economic growth of the border regions, such as the one contemplated by the Special Status Agreement, affirming that cross-border trade between the border communities could greatly elevate their quality of lives.
Both leaders announced they will allow their national airlines, Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airlines, unfettered marketing on each other’s soils, in the interests of enabling growth in aviation. This could be positive, especially since Ethiopia has traditionally locked up its local market to protect Ethiopian Airlines.
They also agreed on a prisoner-exchange programme, which could start as soon as next month and which could mean Kenyans languishing in jails in Ethiopia could be brought back.
With South Sudan’s participation in Lapsset hampered by war, the two leaders said they were disappointed there had been slow progress to bring peace there. They urged the leaders of South Sudan to place the interests of their people above their own to give peace a chance.