Kenya-DRC trade to rise after officials tour port

Kenya Railways and Kenya Ports Authority officials offload cargo from the SGR train to the Meter Gauge Railway cargo train at the Inland Container Depot (ICD) in Mai Mahiu Naivasha for onward transportation to Malaba. [Antony Gitonga, Standard]

Trade between Kenya and DRC is expected to rise following a tour of the Northern Transport Corridor by a Congolese delegation last week.

The delegation comprised representatives from the Office of Multimodal Freight Management (OGEFREM), Congolese Business Federation (FEC), Office of the Governor for North Kivu, Kivu Mineral Resources and Association Congollaise De Commissaires Agrees en Dounane (ACCAD)- Freight Forwarders.

The delegation toured the Port of Mombasa, the Inland Container Depot Nairobi (ICDN) and the Naivasha Dry Port.

During the three-day tour, the officials held extensive discussions focused on opportunities and challenges that hinder DRC's optimal utilisation of the Northern Transport Corridor.

Kenya's key agencies in the shipping and transport sector, including the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA), Kenya Railways (KR), Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), the Kenyan Consulate in Goma, cargo clearance agencies represented by Kenya International Freight and Warehousing Association and Kenya Ships Agents Association were part of the delegation.

Others included maritime regulator Kenya Maritime Authority and the Shippers Council of Eastern Africa.

During the stakeholder engagements, it was resolved that there was need for a strategy that will streamline transport and logistics services along the northern corridor and create synergies with the agencies in DRC to improve efficiency and boost DRC-bound traffic volumes through the corridor.

KPA acting Managing Director John Mwangemi welcomed the visit noting that the economic fortunes of the region were dependent on the robustness and efficiency of the shipping transport and logistics industry which support international trade.

He added that this was the justification for the accelerated investments by the Kenya Ports Authority in port infrastructure projects as port facilities are the start and end of the logistics supply chains.

Underscoring the close ties that Kenya has maintained with DRC, including spearheading and fast-tracking DRC's entry into the East Africa Community, Brigadier (Rtd) Jossiah Mrashui, the Consular General of the Consulate of the Republic of Kenya, said the focus fis to expand economic opportunities for shared prosperity of both countries.

This, he noted, could be through the generation of efficiencies in export-import trade that will scale up and nurture regional value chains across sectors.

"I am convinced that we will be able to unlock the vast potential of this northern corridor through the multimodal transport arteries," he said.

The DRC delegation visited the Port of Mombasa to understand the operations and cargo clearance processes.

The team also toured the Inland Container Depot in Nairobi which is connected to the Port of Mombasa by the Standard Gauge Railway.

The ICD Nairobi plays a crucial role in the effective movement of cargo locally and to the transit markets. The recently revamped facility now has an annual capacity of 450,000 TEUs.

Later, the group toured the Naivasha Inland Container Depot.

Mr Kaninda Michel, the OGEFREM Director for North Kivu and the head of the delegation, said the visit was an eye opener.

Mr Michel said DRC is ready to take advantage of its membership in the East Africa Community to grow its economy, through simplified business processes and ease of movement of cargo and people through the region.

He added that DRC is keen to utilise the Northern Transport corridor more, by increasing the volumes of cargo through the Port of Mombasa.

"We are optimistic that the concerns we have raised from our engagements with KPA will be expeditiously resolved for us to be able to conduct business," he said.

Lignes Maritimes Congolaises, DRC government-owned shipping line, began operations in Mombasa in June.

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