Lapsset holds key to Africa’s trade link – Raila

AU envoy Raila Odinga in a panel discussion during the Kusi Ideas Festivals in Kigali, Rwanda. [Emmanuel Wanson]

Kenya’s Lamu Port is expected to play a critical role in opening up the region to intra-African trade.

The port will link up not just the country to its neighbours, but also form part of a mega continental bridge linking Africa’s eastern and western seaboards.

Africa Union special envoy on infrastructure Raila Odinga addressing a stakeholder forum in Kigali, Rwanda, said land bridge will be among the infrastructure projects that will enhance the Africa Continent Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

Odinga said the Lamu Port South Sudan and Ethiopia Transport (Lapsset) corridor holds huge promise in opening up the continent and enabling free trade flow.

“One of the impediments is lack of proper infrastructure… and because of this, the cost of transport within Africa is between 50 and 175 per cent higher than the rest of the world and makes it difficult for intra-African trade.”

The Kusi Festival organised by the Nation Media group brought together diverse influential African leaders, innovators, scholars, CEOs and heads of State or Government to provoke discourse, dialogue, shape policy directions, and solutions shaping the future of Africa.

Raila said improved infrastructure will open up Africa and allow free trade.

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Lappset, which offers South Sudan and Ethiopia access to the port of Lamu, will form part of a mega infrastructure project that has the support of Africa Union.

The highway, which will comprise of road, railway and crude oil and refined petroleum products pipelines, will connect South Sudan and Ethiopia with Lamu. It is expected to join other similar corridors from Juba and Bangui in CAR further into Cameroon.

President Paul Kagame of Rwanda said AfCFTA should not be limited to trade, but enhance integration among Africans in different areas.

“We are starting from a good place and we can build on that to achieve many things. AfCFTA means a lot of things, it is not just about trade, it is about integration across different areas,” he said.

Former president of the African Development Bank Donald Kaberuka said the concern about African debt levels is ‘nonsensical,’ noting that the African share of global debt is “very small,” both in terms of corporate and sovereign debt.

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LapssetLamu Port South Sudan and Ethiopia TransportAU envoy Raila Odinga