August 19, 2019: The Kenyan government is seeking Sh2.5 trillion financial assistance from the African Union (AU) for the Lamu Port-Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor (LAPSSET) project.

LAPSSET Corridor Development Authority confirmed the reports and stated that a strong case has been made to the AU on the LAPSSET project's strategic position to connect not only Ethiopia and South Sudan, but also connecting to Central African Republic (Bangui) and Cameroon, terminating at Port of Douala.

"AU's special envoy plans to convene a high-level meeting with the countries that fall along Africa's equatorial land bridge later in the year with an aim of forming these crucial transport infrastructure linkages within the continent," said the authority in a statement.

The LAPSSET project was launched in 2012 by former President Mwai Kibaki and is also among the nine Presidential Infrastructure Championship Initiatives (PICI) under the AU. Such projects are championed by respective African heads of state and government. It is also a Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), a strategic continental initiative which has the support of all the African countries, for mobilising resources to transform Africa through modern infrastructure.

This mega project consists of seven key infrastructure projects starting with a new 32 berth port at Lamu (Kenya); Interregional Highways from Lamu to Isiolo, Isiolo to Juba (South Sudan), Isiolo to Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), and Lamu to Garsen (Kenya), crude oil pipeline from Lamu to Isiolo, Isiolo to Juba; product oil pipeline from Lamu to Isiolo, Isiolo to Addis Ababa; interregional standard gauge railway lines from Lamu to Isiolo, Isiolo to Juba, Isiolo to Addis Ababa, and Nairobi to Isiolo; 3 international airports: one each at Lamu, Isiolo, and Lake Turkana; 3 resort cities: one each at Lamu, Isiolo and Lake Turkana; and the multipurpose High Grand Falls Dam along the Tana River.

On August 6, 2019, the first berth of the Lamu port was completed. The second and third berths will be completed by December 2020. The construction of the first three berths out of the 32 expected, begun with dredging works in December 2016. The berths have a 400 metre key length and a depth 17.5-18 metre along a distance of 6,000 metre. The Kenyan government is putting up the first three berths of the planned 32 berths at an estimated cost of Sh71.5 billion. The entire berths are estimated to cost $3.1 billion (Sh319.8 billion). Lamu Port initiative is to develop a second deep seaport along the Kenyan coast. It will be the largest deep seaport, with the highest transhipment capability in the East Coast of Africa.

The development of a new transport corridor linking a new and modern Port of Lamu with Garissa, Isiolo, Maralal, Lodwar and Lokichogio and branching at Isiolo to Moyale at the border with Ethiopia and proceeding to the border with Southern Sudan is part of the flagship infrastructure projects under Vision 2030.

The project, however, has experienced cash constraints and lack of political good-will which has slowed down its implementation. Ethiopia is seen to have shifted focus to the port of Djibouti. Road and rail infrastructure between the two countries including the Ethio-Djibouti railway passenger and freight system, which commenced on January 1, 2018, seems to have also shifted interest away from the LAPSSET corridor.

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