Renovation works are 99 per cent complete with the Uganda port also ready for service
The Sh3 billion rehabilitation of Kisumu Port has renewed optimism for a boost in Nynaza’s economic fortunes upon its completion.
Residents and their leaders say the face-lift will put the port back on the map of Kenya’s shipping and maritime economy.
The port’s revival has been under the special supervision of President Uhuru Kenyatta and African Union special envoy for infrastructure development Raila Odinga.
The two have made numerous visits to the port as the government seeks to restore the once vibrant East Africa hub to its glory days.
The port rehabilitation was expected to have been completed in August. The delay forced the postponement of its commissioning that was scheduled for August 15.
Uhuru had been expected to open the port alongside his Uganda and DRC counterparts Yoweri Museveni and Felix Tshisekedi. The event was indefinitely postponed.
Sources told the Star the port is 99 per cent ready with Uganda port also complete and ready.
Speaking to the Star on Thursday, Kisumu Senator Fred Outa said the renovation will be a big boost to the lakeside region with more than 10,000 jobs expected to be created either directly and indirectly.
He said it was unfortunate the port has been lying idle for years despite its strategic location and huge economic potential.
The port once served as a key passenger and cargo hub connecting Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania through Bell, Jinja, Bukoba and Mwanza ports during its vibrant days.
Muhoroni MP Onyango K’Oyoo said revamping of the port is one the benefits brought about by the March 9, 2018 handshake between Uhuru and Raila.
However, the port renovation has come with its painful side that has left dozens of small scale business premises demolished.
Kisumu West MP Olago Aluoch said the rehabilitation is a painful step for small business people whose premises have been destroyed or relocated to create space. He said the renovation works will bring good tidings to the same business people who are currently suffering.
“Its the same pain pregnant mothers go through on delivery. After delivery, it is all happiness and celebration. I see a bright economic situation soon that will create more employment opportunities than the disrupted businesses and create wealth generally,” Olago said.
He called for the training of residents on marine businesses.
The rehabilitation of Kisumu Port is part of several major lake-front infrastructural projects, which are part of the grand Sh14 billion government plan to jump-start the sleeping blue economy in the Lake Victoria region.
Other projects include the revival of Kicomi, the extension of the standard gauge railway to Kisumu city and the development of an industrial park in Muhoroni.
The Kenya Ports Authority has already transported equipment to the port ahead of its commissioning. KPA managing director Daniel Manduku told the Star they were already moving forklift trucks, mobile cranes and tractor-trailers to Kisumu.
“Currently, manual labour is used at the port to transfer cargo stored in the warehouse to vessels. We need 15-tonne mobile cranes, forklifts trucks and tractor-trailers to support cargo handling,” Manduku said.
Manduku said the port will be key to the industrial and commercial growth of the region. The project involves paving the open areas, putting efficient drainage and improving access roads for trucks, tractors, trailers and forklift trucks.
Lake Region Economic Bloc head of research and resource mobilisation Okoth Obora said the facility will promote local and regional trade, create jobs, and indirectly boost agriculture and industrial development.
Loreb is the economic bloc that brings together 14 counties from the lakeside region including Trans Nzoia, Bungoma, Kericho, Bomet, Kisii, Nyamira, Nandi, Kakamega, Vihiga, Busia, Migori, Homa Bay, Siaya and Kisumu.
Kisumu Central MP Fred Ouda, whose constituency hosts the port, said the facility will boost the lake shipping industry and its auxiliary services to benefit the East African Community.
Other opportunities include warehouses, and clearing and forwarding enterprises. Those who set up such facilities will reap big, Ouda said.
The port project has also come with other benefits. Water hyacinth is being removed from the lake and a 63.1km canal is being created to Mbita.
The 216km Kisumu-Nakuru railway line will also be upgraded from 50 metres to 80m.
“Residents must seize this opportunity and take up economic activities that will boost their incomes and improve their living standards,” Obora said.
The Loreb region has an estimated population of 14 million people.
Obora, who is also in charge of the Maritime Transport and Associated Services in Lake Victoria, said residents should massively embark on agribusiness to generate goods to be transported to Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan.
He cited the production of cotton, sugar, rice, maize, livestock, coffee and horticultural crops for both domestic use and export.
Obora noted that locals should not only focus on recruitment jobs saying more opportunities are in business, transport and hospitality industries.
“We need to ask ourselves how to benefit from the available businesses and job opportunities at the port and the best way to positively exhaust them for economic growth,” Obora said.
“Our people must wake up and make good use of the port by ensuring they have products and services to transit to our neighbouring countries.”
Kisumu Governor Anyang Nyong’o said the port will harnessing the blue economy for sustainable development.
He said some of the opportunities in the blue economy sectors to be harnessed are lake transportation of oil products to neighbouring countries of Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“When the SGR extends to Kisumu and a terminal is finally established, it will be possible to transport even more of Kenya’s products to the regional markets through the lake,” Nyong’o said.
Uhuru, Raila, Transport CS James Macharia, PS Esther Koimett, Manduku, and other top government officials have on several occasions inspected the progress of the rehabilitation works.
Raila, in a recent visit said Kisumu port used to be vibrant in the previous years with ships docking every hour with goods from Mwanza, Bukoba, Port Bell and Jinja.
He regretted that thousands of jobs had been lost following the lull of the port and that for lack of activities the water hyacinth found its way in the Lake Victoria.
Raila said rehabilitation of the port was one of the key priority projects that would make the Trans-African Highway a practical route from Lagos to Mombasa, Mombasa to Kisumu, Kisumu to Port Bell, Port Bell to DRC, DRC to the Central African Republic, and then to Cameroon and back to Lagos.
“This was a sure way of promoting intra-Africa trade noting that currently Africa to Africa trade is less than 15 per cent when Europe to Europe and Asia to Asia trade stands at 70 per cent and 56 per cent respectively,” Raila said.
The steel hull of the 1,000-tonne, 91-metre-long MV Uhuru cargo carrier is ready to roar back to life as the dredging of the lake will make it possible for big ships to navigate through the waters.
The MV Uhuru is only awaiting the required insurance and licensing. The upgraded port facilities and shipyard are expected to improve efficiency and sustain shipbuilding repairs at the inland port.
It was the biggest dry dock in the continent, where vessels such as SS Usonga, SS Nyanza, MV Victoria and MV Uhuru were manufactured.