Lapsset project to unlock Lamu’s economy

Lapsset project to unlock Lamu’s economy

The writer is the Principal Secretary, Ministry of Transport, Infrastructure, Housing and Urban Development.

On February 13, a report on the environmental and economic impact of the Lamu Port Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport (Lapsset) infrastructure corridor project was published.  It outlined how the mega project will transform the economy of Lamu county  as well as achieve a localised industrial revolution buoyed by massive infrastructure projects.

It further debunked myths and misconceptions on infrastructure spending, by showing the benefits the Lapsset project is expected to yield. Although the benefits will be felt across various counties, Lamu is set to be the biggest  beneficiary.

Lamu primarily depends on the fishing industry. Fishing accounts for three out of four jobs for residents of the county. However, the industry is yet to scale up and diversify into value-addition to create more skilled jobs and increase earnings.

Lack of infrastructure has resulted into many fisherman relying on the activity for subsistence and not as a source of gainful employment. However, this is set to change with the proposed fishing port, as part of the larger Lamu Port.

The construction of a fishing port and enhancement of capacity for local fishermen would enable them venture into the deep sea to exploit the rich fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone,  that is home to more than 150 varieties of fish.

Value addition to the massive catch will include production of fish fillets, fish sticks, breaded shrimp, canned tuna, fish oil and other derivatives such as fish meal  for both local and the export market.

To support the industry, there will be need for warehousing, distribution channels, packing and other services, which will create more employment opportunities for citizens.

In the absence of a fishing port, the rich waters have been exploited by international fishers and in the process, denying Lamu and Kenya the much needed income.

The Lamu Port, which the Ministry of Transport, Infrastructure, Housing and Urban Development has classified as a priority project, will have 23 deep sea berths, with the completion of the first three being operated by Kenya Ports Authority (KPA). The remaining 20 deep sea berths will be constructed and operated by the private sector.

Similar arrangements for roads, rail sub-sector, pipeline and other projects are being drafted and explored.

In addition to this, the construction of the Sh10 billion Lamu-Witu-Garsen road is on schedule while the detailed design for the Lamu-Garissa-Isiolo road has been completed, ready for groundbreaking.

Already, discussions between the  government and Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) for funding are ongoing.

The report has cited challenges that lie ahead such as adequate, timely compensation for affected land owners as well as threats to livelihoods in instances of displacement.

To this end, the ministry has set aside Sh1 billion to compensate affected residents including acquisition of 200 boats to boost the capacity of fishermen.

Finally, I urge Kenyans to offer constructive criticism instead of discrediting the Lapsset project, which is part of Vision 2030 — Kenya’s blueprint aimed at driving the country into prosperity.

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