Kibaki's Brainchild Takes Africa by Storm Days After Raila's Move

  • The African Union (AU) has officially incorporated the Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia Transport (Lapsset) project days after AU Envoy for Infrastructure Raila Odinga held a meeting with ministers from South Sudan and Ethiopia.

    According to a report published by Voice of Africa on Tuesday, January 21, all the four countries involved in the project have signed the documents indicating their participation and full support for the much-touted development masterplan.

    The reports also indicate that the African Union has also tasked two of Africa's biggest lenders to fund the project and ensure that it is delivered as intended by the participating nations.

    South Sudan Transport PS Martin Hassan, African Union High Representative for Infrastructure Raila Odinga and Kenya's Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia in Mombasa.

    According to the project's website, 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) and interregional highways from Lamu to Isiolo, Isiolo to Juba (South Sudan), Isiolo to Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), and Lamu to Garsen (Kenya).

    It also involves a crude oil pipeline from Lamu to Isiolo, Isiolo to Juba; a product oil pipeline from Lamu to Isiolo and from Isiolo to Addis Ababa, and 3 international airports: one each at Lamu, Isiolo, and Lake Turkana.

    The Lapsset project envisions an interregional standard gauge railway (SGR) line from Lamu to Isiolo, Isiolo to Juba, Isiolo to Addis Ababa, and Nairobi to Isiolo, and three resort cities: one each at Lamu, Isiolo, and Lake Turkana.

    According to a report titled African Renewal by the United Nations in 2016, the Lapsset railway will be extended to connect to West Africa’s Douala–Lagos–Cotonou–Abidjan Corridor, running through Cameroon, Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana, and Côte d’Ivoire respectively.

    The ambitious project was launched in March 2012 by retired President Mwai Kibaki in a ceremony that was attended by President Salva Kiir of South Sudan, and the then Prime Minister of Ethiopia Meles Zenawi, all of whom traveled to Lamu to lay the foundation stone for the port.

    The UN report also indicated that the China Communications Construction Company was awarded a contract worth Ksh47.9 billion in 2013 to construct the first three berths which were set to be completed in 2019.

    From left: Former Ethiopian PM Meles Zenawi, Former Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and their South Sudanese counterpart launch the Lapsset project in Lamu in 2012. The project came to life a year later during President Uhuru Kenyatta's reign.

    Due to a number of delays, however, the first berth in Lamu was completed in August 2019, while completion of the second and third berths is scheduled for December 2020.