In a significant development, Kenya and Ethiopia have embarked on a collaborative effort to revitalize and expedite the completion of the Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET) Corridor, a crucial infrastructure project that holds the potential to reshape trade routes and connectivity in the East African region. This renewed commitment was underscored during the recent visit of Ethiopia’s Minister for Transport and Logistics, Alemu Sime, to Kenya.
The LAPSSET Corridor, launched in 2012 as a visionary project to connect the Lamu port on the Indian Ocean to key destinations such as Moyale, Addis Ababa, and South Sudan, has faced multiple challenges, including funding constraints and political hurdles. However, the recent collaboration between the two neighboring nations has reignited hopes for the project’s completion.
During his visit, Ethiopia Minister for Transport and Logistics Alemu Sime expressed Ethiopia’s readiness to fully utilise the Port of Lamu, emphasising the need for supportive infrastructure to facilitate its operational efficiency. He confirmed that both nations will establish a joint corridor management committee to address challenges and expedite the LAPSSET project’s implementation.
“A joint corridor management committee incorporating a team from Ethiopia and Kenya will be formed to identify challenges encountered with the Lapsset project implementation, to be able to find common solutions for speedy completion,” Alemu said at a press conference after having the pleasure of touring Lamu Port and engaging with major stakeholders including Captain William Ruto who’s the Managing Director of Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) where he also stressed the need to “to expedite completion of supportive infrastructure to fully utilise the port,”.
The committee will work together to find common solutions for a speedy completion, reflecting a shared commitment to making this ambitious corridor a reality.
Ethiopia’s interest in the LAPSSET Corridor is driven by its strategic importance. With a population of approximately 130 million people and increasing cargo volumes, Ethiopia is seeking to diversify its port options and enhance trade connectivity in the East and Horn of Africa. The LAPSSET Corridor, when completed, will provide Ethiopia with a vital trade link to the southern region, boosting its export and import capabilities.
Furthermore, the collaboration extends beyond port facilities. Both nations have agreed to jointly develop the LAPSSET Corridor railway, which aims to create a land bridge between the East and West Coasts of Africa. This transformative initiative could potentially reshape trade dynamics and connectivity on the continent.
The commitment to the LAPSSET project is further reinforced by the extension of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) from Lamu to Moyale via Isiolo, ultimately connecting to Addis Ababa. This extension seeks to facilitate efficient transportation and trade between the two nations. Kenya’s Transport Cabinet Secretary, Kipchumba Murkomen, expressed optimism about the SGR extension’s potential to enhance cross-border connectivity and boost regional trade.
President William Ruto, a champion of the LAPSSET project under the AU Presidential Infrastructure Championship Initiative, has highlighted the prioritisation of key aspects, including the development of the corridor, port equipment, and the Lamu Special Economic Zone.
“I apprised the Ethiopian delegation of President William Ruto’s commitment, as the current champion of the LAPSSET project under the AU Presidential Infrastructure Championship Initiative, to prioritise the development of the Corridor, full port equipment, the operationalisation of the first three berths of the Lamu Port and the development of Lamu Special Economic Zone along the Corridor,” said Murkomen
The upgrading of road infrastructure, such as the Lamu-Garissa-Isiolo highway, is also underway to ensure seamless connectivity along the corridor.
Despite previous delays and challenges, both Kenya and Ethiopia appear resolute in their determination to make the LAPSSET Corridor a success. The collaborative efforts, joint steering committees, and the commitment of key stakeholders demonstrate a concerted drive to overcome obstacles and realise the corridor’s potential.
The project’s significance extends beyond trade and connectivity. The LAPSSET Corridor has been designated as a pillar in the realisation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), emphasising its role in fostering regional economic integration and growth.
As it gains momentum with renewed commitment and strategic partnerships, the LAPSSET Corridor holds the promise of becoming a transformative corridor that reshapes trade routes, enhances connectivity, and contributes to the economic development of the East African region and beyond. It’s successful completion would not only mark a significant milestone for Kenya and Ethiopia but also serve as a beacon of cooperation and progress for the entire continent.