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Let Kenya do more to retain regional clout

By Andrew Makari Watila | April 24th 2018

The government must take concrete measures to ensure the country retains its dominance as the regional powerhouse.

This requires that operations of all ministries, departments and agencies measure up to global standards. Mombasa port, Kenya’s gateway for exports and imports, is the starting point.

The days of running ‘business as usual’ are gone because Tanzania is keen on taking away trade from hinterland countries that used to pass via Mombasa port.

Uganda and Rwanda have already demonstrated their willingness to reduce their dependence on Kenya. Indeed, Rwanda has decided to build a railway line that will link it to the Tanzanian standard gauge rail line from Dar-es-Salaam Port.

Burundi is already in the Tanzanian orbit as most of its imports and exports pass through Dar ports. Tanzania has also demonstrated its readiness to erect tariff and non-tariff barriers to contain Kenya outside its borders such as giving rebates to cargo owners and truckers.

But, perhaps, the biggest move that Mombasa needs to make is ensure it retains the maritime trade between the DRC and the outside world. This is because the Congolese population is huge and the country is poised to grow its economy faster once it stabilises its politics. It also has all the mineral wealth the world needs.

Container ships

Another key area that Mombasa port needs to address urgently is the time it takes to off-load and load container ships.

This will require the cooperation of all stakeholders at the port including those who make money as a result of the delay.

There is reason to believe that these improvements can be made at low cost because it may only require additional loading and off-loading cranes that work faster than the existing ones.

The port may not even need to employ new staff. All it may need is better utilisation of the existing ones, some of whom could be re-trained.

Policy makers must be spurred to action by the knowledge that neighbouring Djibouti has a better chance of retaining the bulk of Ethiopia’s maritime trade because it is only about a half of the volumes.

To capture Ethiopia’s trade, Kenya must hasten the commissioning of the Lamu Port. Plans to build the 880km road and a 710km rail should be fast-tracked as they will help integrate the economies of South Sudan and Ethiopia with that of Kenya. This will reduce costs of imports, increase exports and cement Kenya’s economic dominance.

[Mbatau wa Ngai,[email protected]]  

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