Why Putting 40% of Kenya’s Land Under Forests Is Not A Long Shot

Last week on 20th May was a very big day in Kenya’s his­to­ry. On that day, as the Indi­an Ocean waters roared soft­ly, Lamu Port roared to life. On hand to wit­ness this epic birth was Pres­i­dent Keny­at­ta. He cheered as MV CAP Carmel, a 204-meter Sin­ga­pore­an ship became the first ves­sel to dock into the Port. It had sailed from the Port of Dar es Salaam and was on its way to Salalah in Oman.

Lamu Port is a very big deal, not just eco­nom­i­cal­ly, but lit­er­al­ly. Because its depth is 17.5 meters as com­pared to Mom­basa’s 15 meters it can han­dle big­ger ships with capac­i­ties of up to 12,000 twen­ty-foot equiv­a­lent units (TEUs). Mom­basa Port can only han­dle ship with capac­i­ties of up to 10,000 TEUs.

In addi­tion, Lamu’s berths are a whop­ping 400 meters, as com­pared to Mom­basa’s 300 meters. Evi­dent­ly, this is a big Port that will han­dle big ves­sels. The ques­tion is, will it gen­er­ate big prof­its in increas­ing­ly big­ger fash­ion? Yes, it can. How­ev­er, for this to hap­pen we need to build an effi­cient team that will enable the port to con­quer the world, specif­i­cal­ly the ports in Dur­ban, Eritrea, Soma­liland and Dji­bouti port, which are our biggest com­peti­tors. It is com­mon knowl­edge that our port oper­a­tions have been dogged with myr­i­ads of inef­fi­cien­cies. Fail­ure to address the team ele­ment at this cru­cial stage may amount to sim­ply chang­ing the for­est and intro­duc­ing the same monkeys.

We must not cow­er in fear at the fact that Ethiopia seems to be edg­ing towards the Soma­liland, Dji­bouti and Eritrea Ports. Cur­rent­ly, 80 per­cent of Ethiopi­a’s trade flows through the Eritrea and Dji­bouti ports. To make mat­ters poten­tial­ly worse, Ethiopia is said to have already acquired a stake in Soma­liland’s Berbera Port project and is in the process of acquir­ing a stake in Eritrea’s project.

Indeed, busi­ness is cut­throat and that is why we need a world class team devoid of pre­vi­ous lax­i­ties to make Lamu Port the first port of call for East Africa and beyond.

Actu­al­ly, we need to dis­patch sea­soned, tal­ent­ed mar­keters from the pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tor to set camp not just in Ethiopia, but also in South Sudan, Mozam­bique and Zanz­ibar. These coun­tries are cur­rent­ly being served by ports in Dur­ban, Dji­bouti and Yemen. We need to over­pow­er­ing­ly turn the tide of trade from these estab­lished com­peti­tors to Lamu Port.

Accord­ing to UNESCO, Lamu Old Town is the old­est and best-pre­served Swahili set­tle­ment in East Africa. Lamu has been trad­ing with far flung mar­kets in Europe, Per­sian Gulf and Chi­na for cen­turies. As such, Lamu is sim­ply regain­ing its right­ful place as Africa’s lead­ing sea­port trade hub. But we must shed off all man­ner of human cap­i­tal inef­fi­cien­cies to adopt the foot­steps of lead­ing glob­al Ports.

Two years ago, I vis­it­ed the Port of Sin­ga­pore and was amazed at the team’s inspi­ra­tion and com­mit­ment to excel­lence. Since 2015, it has been ranked as the world’s top mar­itime cap­i­tal. Con­sid­er­ing that ves­sels from this Port sail to 600 oth­er ports in 123 coun­tries, it’s no won­der that it’s the world’s busiest trans­ship­ment port.

Sin­ga­pore’s mar­itime indus­try has cre­at­ed near­ly 200,000 jobs and accounts for at least 7 per­cent of Sin­ga­pore’s GDP. This suc­cess is not acci­den­tal but a result of con­ducive gov­ern­ment poli­cies, a high­ly com­pe­tent work­force and a superb hin­ter­land trans­port net­work that enhances port oper­a­tions. Hence, Sin­ga­pore has been ranked sec­ond in the World Banks’s 2020 Ease of Doing Busi­ness Report.

Like­wise, Lamu Port can lead Kenya to pros­per­i­ty. For this to hap­pen, just like the offi­cial launch of the port I humbly sug­gest that Pres­i­dent Keny­at­ta delib­er­ate­ly returns to inau­gu­rate a world class team to man­age the affairs of the Lamu port.

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About Dr. Kalua Green

He is the Chief Stew­ard of Green Africa Group, a con­glom­er­ate that was envi­sioned in 1991 to con­nect, pro­duce and impact var­i­ous aspi­ra­tions of human­i­ty through Sus­tain­able Mobil­i­ty & Safe­ty Solu­tions, Eco­pre­neur­ship & Agribusi­ness, Ship­ping & Logis­tics, Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Ini­tia­tives, as well as Hos­pi­tal­i­ty & fur­nish­ings sectors

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