Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: East
Africa’s Massive Infrastructure Project Begins
February 02, 2017
is a massive infrastructure project originating from Kenya, consisting
of a 32-berth port on the country’s north coast, a railway, an oil
pipeline, highways, international airports, and resort cities.
LAPSSET stands for “Lamu Port, South Sudan, Ethiopia Transport
Corridor,” a project to connect Kenya with South Sudan, Ethiopia, and
eventually West Africa.
One of the project's creators, Gerrishon Ikiara, was Kenya’s permanent
secretary for the Ministry of Transport from 2003 to 2008.
“You know, for a long time, the products for the exports and imports
going to those countries and other countries within East Africa, they
have been uncompetitive in international markets, because of the costs
of transportation, which has been taking as much as 30 percent of the
value of those product,” said Ikiara. “It [LAPSSET] will make the
countries’ exports much more efficient and rise in value and so forth.”
LAPSSET corporate affairs officer Benson Thuita says dredging of the
first berth at the new Lamu port began in 2016. A new road linking
Isiolo to Moyale, on the border of Ethiopia, was finished in September.
He says the new Isiolo airport is ready to start operations; once open,
it will facilitate the export of beef and the stimulant miraa to the
Regional circumstances changing
Steve McDonald, a Global Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International
Center for Scholars, says the project has the potential to be a great
advantage for the region, but circumstances have changed since its
“The security situation in East Africa, the border situations between
South Sudan and Kenya, the border situations between South Sudan and
Ethiopia, the refugee flows in Uganda and Kenya and Ethiopia, the
security situation is very, very dicey. And that is going to be a real
challenge,” said McDonald.
Ikiara, on the other hand, believes the project may improve security.
“It is likely to open up the whole of northern Kenya, which for a long
time has been a neglected area, and even help to possibly improve
security and increase other economic activities,” he said.
other issues are also at stake. In 2012, the group Save Lamu filed a
petition against the government, warning of environmental degradation,
"unprecedented" levels of population growth, and of the destruction of
the town’s cultural heritage. Lamu, whose old town is listed as a UNESCO
world heritage site, survives on tourism.
Save Lamu Chairman Abubakar Mohamed Ali says that mangroves have been
destroyed and local fishermen are trying to figure out how they will
earn a living once their normal fishing grounds are occupied.
“So all these things matter a lot, towards these projects,” said Ali.
Despite these issues, Ali says he is now in favor of the project, in
part because the Kenyan government has compensated local landowners,
with some receiving the relatively large sum of about $14,500 for
one-acre plots. And, Ali says the government is sending locals for
training programs to make them employable.
LAPPSET is an estimated $24 billion project, relying heavily on
public-private partnership initiatives for funding.