Lamu Port has officially opened for business after President Uhuru Kenyatta Thursday unveiled its first berth promising to launch two other berths before the end of this year.
The transhipment port targets to link Kenya to South Sudan, Ethiopia and the middle belt of Africa.
“I am hopeful that before the end of the year in October we will invite regional leaders and other stakeholders for the full launch of the port after completion of the second berth in July and the third berth in October,” said the President.
“This project will open up opportunities in trade, tourism and create jobs not only in Lamu County but across the country,” he said.
The President challenged the Lamu County government to be aggressive in looking for investors to provide facilities such as houses that would complement the project. He promised to improve the road network in the area.
The President expressed optimism that the new port will inspire Turkana Oil investors on State commitment to improving infrastructure.
The country’s second commercial port after Mombasa received its first ship on Thursday, a milestone for the corridor, which has ambitions of being a key gateway for eastern and central Africa.
The corridor has a short term target of serving Ethiopia and South Sudan.
While there is optimism that the port will bring about the renewal of Lamu, there are concerns about the degree of connectivity between the county and the rest of the country.
The corridor itself is expected to have roads, rail and pipelines connecting the port to the hinterland, going as deep into the region as South Sudan and Addis Ababa.
“The Lapsset Corridor is primed to be the most competitive corridor in the region,” said Lapsset Authority in a statement, adding that currently there are options for businesses using Lamu Port to evacuate or bring cargo to the port.
It added that there are a number of critical roads that are currently being constructed, which will significantly improve access to the port. These are expected to lure businesses importing and exporting to and from South Sudan and Ethiopia.
Currently, Lamu Port connects to Ethiopia through a 1,425km road – the Lamu-Garsen-Garissa-Kilimambogo-Isiolo-Moyale (Ethiopia border) route, of which 1,075km is paved, while the balance is under construction and expected to be complete in the course of this year.
The authority said this journey would reduce to 832km once a number of roads such as the Lamu-Garissa road are completed.
It is also the case for South Sudan, which though Lamu offers a much shorter route compared to using Port Sudan, over 2,700km from Juba, a poor road network might hamper access to Lamu Port.