The construction of Lamu Port in Kenya has been officially launched by Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki, South Sudan's President Salva Kiir and Ethiopia's Prime Minister Salva Kiir. The Port is expected to act as the main gateway to Africa's Great Lakes region that includes the Horn of Africa, eastern Africa and central Africa.
The inauguration of the port project also marked the launch of the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Project (Lapsset). This project will see the creation of a superhighway that will link Kenya and Ethiopia.
In addition, Kenya and Sudan signed a memorandum of understanding that will see the creation of an oil pipeline from Juba in South Sudan to Lamu.
Speaking at the launch, Kenya's Prime Minister Raila Odinga laid out the project's vision.
"Lapsset is a multi-billion dollar project that includes railways, road networks, airports, pipelines and refineries as well as tourist resorts," he said. "All of these are commercially viable and perfectly suited for private investments."
Because of its private-sector approach, the project has opened up diverse multi-million dollar investment opportunities for both local and foreign investors. Lamu Center, a coalition of local investors has already set up a 200-acre centre that will seek to benefit from its proximity to the port.
China and dozens of other foreign countries are also expected to invest heavily in the project.
The project will address decades-old logistical and infrastructural challenges that have beset the region.
Although Kenya and Ethiopia are neighbours, there has been no reliable road transport between them until now.
Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi is confident that this transport project will go a long way in addressing under-development in the region.
"The cost of infrastructure links connecting our countries has long been regarded as a significant obstacle of alleviating our underdevelopment," he says. "The Lapsset project will play a critical role in helping to address the unmet transport needs in our region. Upon its completion, it will connect the eastern and western coasts of Africa.'
The Lamu Port will open up trade and ensure benefits for the region's 167 million people.
Although some Lamu residents were concerned that they would not benefit from the jobs that the port will create, the leaders assured them that 1,000 jobs would be set aside for local youth. Local people also expressed concern that the fragile marine ecosystem will be adversely affected by the port.