19 March 2017

Kenya: Mega Lamu Project Taking Steps Closer to Bearing Fruit for Locals

opinion

Kenyans for the first time have a clearer picture of what the Lamu Port Southern Sudan Ethiopia Transport (Lapsset) project will mean for Lamu County's economy following the publication on February 13, of a report on the environmental and economic impact of the infrastructure corridor project.

The Lapsset Development Authority unveiled a detailed strategic environmental assessment report that has revealed how the county can achieve a localised industrial revolution buoyed by the massive infrastructure projects in the offing.

The report has debunked myths and misconceptions on infrastructure spending by showing the dividend projects such as Lapsset are expected to yield.

These benefits will be felt across various counties and natural justice demands that we first have a look at Lamu, where the project begins.

Lamu County depends on the fishing industry and this is where the Lapsset project will have its biggest impact.

Fishing accounts for three out of four jobs for locals but the industry is yet to scale up and diversify into value addition to create more skilled jobs to increase earnings.

As a result of lack of infrastructure, many fishermen rely on this for subsistence and not as a source of gainful employment.

However, as the report indicates, this is set to change with the proposed fishing port, which is to be a part of the larger Lamu Port.

By constructing a fishing port and creating capacity for fishermen to venture into the deep sea to exploit the rich fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone, they will be able to tap into rich waters that are home to more than 150 species.

This rich catch would then be taken to the fishing port, where value addition will be possible.

Fish fillets, fish sticks, breaded shrimp, canned tuna, fish oil and other derivatives such as fish meal will all be processed from the port for export or sold locally.

There is a need for warehousing, distribution channels, packing and other services that will all employ locals and other Kenyans.

EMPLOYMENT

In the absence of a fishing port, the rich waters are being exploited by international fishers, denying Lamu County and Kenya much needed income.

The Lamu Port, which the Transport ministry has classified as a priority project, will have 23 deep sea berths.

Upon completion of the first three berths, the Kenya Ports Authority will initially operate them before concessioning them to a private operator.

The remaining 20 deep-sea berths will be constructed and operated by the private sector. Similar arrangements for roads, railways, pipeline and other projects are being explored.

Additionally, the construction of the Sh10 billion Lamu-Witu-Garsen road has begun, while the detailed design of the Lamu-Garissa-Isiolo road has been completed with ground-breaking set to take place soon.

I am glad to report that the Development Bank of Southern Africa is in discussions to fund construction of this vital road.

The report has cited challenges that lie ahead such as the need for adequate and timely compensation for affected land owners as well as threats to the livelihoods of those displaced.

The ministry has set aside Sh1 billion to compensate affected residents, including the acquisition of some 200 boats to be distributed to fishermen to boost their capacity.

I urge fellow Kenyans to avoid simply discrediting this important project as has become the norm among some commentators and pundits.

A more constructive approach would be to seek solutions. It is not by accident that the architects of Vision 2030, the blueprint to lift the country to prosperity, undertook the Lapsset corridor project.

This is our chance, as Kenyans, to gift future generations with a quality of life better than what we have and I encourage all of us to support this initiative.

Mr Nyakera is the principal secretary, State Department of Transport, Ministry of Transport, Infrastructure, Housing and Urban Development

Kenya

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