One on one with Sylvester Kasuku, Director General and Chief Executive Officer of Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET) Corridor Development Authority.
What is LAPSSET?
The LAPSSET Corridor Program is Eastern Africa’s largest and most ambitious infrastructure project bringing together Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan. This mega project consists of seven key infrastructure projects starting with a new 32 Berth port at Lamu (Kenya); Interregional Highways from Lamu to Isiolo, Isiolo to Juba (South Sudan), Isiolo to Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), and Lamu to Garsen (Kenya), Crude Oil Pipeline from Lamu to Isiolo, Isiolo to Juba; Product Oil Pipeline from Lamu to Isiolo, Isiolo to Addis Ababa; Interregional Standard Gauge Railway lines from Lamu to Isiolo, Isiolo to Juba, Isiolo to Addis Ababa, and Nairobi to Isiolo; 3 International Airports: one at Lamu, Isiolo, and Lake Turkana; 3 Resort Cities: one at Lamu, Isiolo and Lake Turkana; and The multipurpose High Grand Falls Dam along the Tana River.
What is the status of LAPPSET as at today?
We are currently undertaking the construction of first three berths at Lamu Port and, the expected timelines are mid-2018 for the first berth and mid-2020 for the second and third berths. Construction of the Lamu-Garsen road is ongoing to provide an immediate off take route to connect the Lamu port with the B8 road from Mombasa to Garissa via Malindi. On the 29th of November, 2017 the Government of Kenya signed a Project agreement with the consortium of South Africa led by the Development Bank of Southern Africa together with Group Five construction Limited.
This particular Agreement provides a framework for collaboration between KENHA and the Consortium, for the construction of the Lamu-Garissa-Isiolo road; we shall commence these road works latest April 2018. This road will connect to Northern part of Kenya and give a direct route to countries like Ethiopia and South Sudan. At the moment we have also completed the construction of Isiolo-Marsabit-Moyale road.
The Government of Ethiopia is also undertaking the construction of additional 500 kilometres under LAPSSET. The road is between Moyale and Hawassa. Another 360 kilometers between Loingamachak-Lokichar-Lodwar to Nakodok, the border between Kenya and South Sudan, is on course.
Airports have not been left behind, Isiolo International Airport is almost done just a few touch ups and as we speak there are scheduled flights, there are daily scheduled flights to and from Isiolo. Lamu-Manda Airport has been upgraded by lengthening the runway from about 1 kilometer to 2.3 kilometers and a facelift for the terminal building.
Who is financing all these construction works?
We are being financed by the World Bank among other development partners in the construction of the road going to South Sudan while the road to Ethiopia has been funded through a syndication arrangement by the African Development Bank. Lamu port is being funded by the Government of Kenya directly through budgetary provisions. It’s really a mix; the Kenya government is funding the construction of the three berths at Lamu Port. We are already engaging the private sector to come forward to operate the port as well as develop additional terminals. Basically, the government is facilitating, and then we now let the private sector to come on board to take advantage of the opportunity and to invest in the port.
For the roads, we are syndicating finances with development partners like the African Development Bank, the World Bank, Particularly in regard to construction of Isiolo-Moyale, Loingamachak-Lokichar, Lowdar to Nakodok.
In terms of the crude oil pipeline, we are undertaking the Front End Engineering and Design Studies. This is going to be funded by the Government of Kenya together with the upstream partners. Most of the components will be implemented through the private public partnership arrangement.
What are the social economic effects?
A lot of employments are being created under the LAPSSET Corridor projects so far, our estimate is that close to 5000 people have already benefited in opportunities created by LAPSSET corridor, both in direct employment and business opportunities.
For example we have seen a number of business people particularly the ones who supply livestock to the Nairobi market being able to reach Nairobi much faster.
When we look at the human head side, maternal health care was quite a big problem when this road was not in place. A lot of mothers referred to hospitals outside the corridor, for example, to Meru or to Nyeri or to wherever, never used to make it. A lot of times the vehicles used to break down and you know a mother who is referred to higher hospitals means that the person needs urgent medical attention so to drive such a person on a less than 300 – 400 kilometers with vehicles breaking down and prolonged travel time impeded the efficient delivery of MCH services.
We have also provided water and electricity in Lamu and we are going to increase the capacity of water provision in Lamu to 3,000 cubic meters by 2018 and at the same time, we will be providing more scholarship opportunities to youths in Lamu. Already 400 youths have been recruited and awarded full scholarships paid by the Government to enable them acquire higher education in universities and colleges. At the moment, about 109 students have graduated.
What is so unique about Lamu port?
The largest container ship of the length of 400 meters will be able to dock in Lamu. At the moment, there is not any port in Africa that can take in that kind of ship but Lamu Port will be able to rake in that kind of ship hence big transshipment business. Medium-sized ships will be used to distribute the cargo to other ports within Africa and even the Middle East. Lamu is going to be a major port platform going forward.
The government does have an Integrated Transport Infrastructure Master Plan for Lamu port City. What is it all about?
Yes, currently we are undertaking a number of processes in preparing Lamu Port city for proper growth and development. We are undertaking a master plan for the city to organize land use. We are also undertaking the preparation of an integrated transport infrastructure master plan to be able to service Lamu Port city.
We do not want problems that have been seen in cities like Nairobi, Mombasa, Dar es Salaam, and Kampala among many other cities coming up in a place like Lamu. We want Lamu to grow as a more sustainable city, as a more organized city, and as a smart and green ecological city. So, we are planning it ahead of time so that any development that is going to take place in Lamu is going to follow that particular plan.
You recently signed a grant agreement with AFDB geared towards promoting the implementations and operationalizing of the Lamu Port project…
Yes. The LAPSSET Development Authority signed an agreement with the African Development Bank in which the African Development Bank is providing $2,000,000/= for the transaction advisory to bring on board private sector investors to the port of Lamu as well as the Lamu special economic zone so that we can kick start the industrial development in Lamu and deepen private sector investments and operations in the port of Lamu.
What are some of the challenges that your authority faces?
The project is a big challenge, but as the man on the job I see it as a big opportunity. I would like to appreciate the chance that has been provided by: one, the government in spearheading the development of a unique integrated infrastructure development programme of the nature, there is not any other in the continent or even in the globe. LAPSSET is unique; it can never be a walk in the park.
Firstly, I wish to appreciate the opportunity accorded to me to lead the process of delivering this magnanimous initiative. This initiative is indeed an assurance and is indeed a kind of insurance to the safety and security of Kenya’s population in the future. I call it the insurance of Kenya’s future in that we are expanding investments base, we are creating jobs and we are expanding opportunities within our economy to benefit not just the people of today alone but also the people of tomorrow. It is enabling us to integrate the country and to integrate the region and this is a great opportunity for generations.
I also wanted to mention that what most countries would find to be a challenge, for example, in terms of funding, the Government of Kenya through LAPSSET have found great innovation by bringing in private sector to not only subsidize government funding but also get business opportunities.
How does this project affect the engineers?
It is providing a lot of employment opportunities and a lot of professional practice opportunities to engineers, a lot of engineering students and young engineers having a first-hand experience on marine works.It is also giving an assurance to engineers that there will be more work of similar nature in the future. We are just developing the first three terminals; we have 29 more to go.
They will be able to own great skills, they will be able to sharpen great design skills, they will be able to be more innovative and to be more creative in designing and modeling future terminals at the port and they will have the opportunity to come up with better options for integrating developments within Kenya’s coastline.