Why Mombasa Port Efficiency Can Revamp East Africa’s Economy

Last week, I was priv­i­leged to wit­ness Pres­i­dent William Ruto pre­side over the Port Reforms Work­ing Group Con­sul­ta­tive Forum at the Berth 22 of the Port of Mom­basa. In his speech, the Pres­i­dent direct­ly linked the pro­duc­tiv­i­ty of our Port to the state of our econ­o­my and there­fore stat­ed why improv­ing effi­cien­cy will help us cre­ate jobs, boost export vol­umes, and stim­u­late eco­nom­ic growth. 

Indeed, ports can dras­ti­cal­ly boost a country’s econ­o­my. Accord­ing to the World Ship­ping Coun­cil, China’s Shang­hai Port is the largest port in the world. In 2021, it reg­is­tered a con­tain­er traf­fic of 47.03 mil­lion TEU (twen­ty-foot equiv­a­lent unit). This is a mea­sure of vol­ume in units of twen­ty-foot longcon­tain­ers. Six of the oth­er top ten Ports were also from Chi­na. The oth­er three were as fol­lows: Sin­ga­pore Port in sec­ond posi­tion; South Korea’s Busan Port in sixth posi­tion and Nether­lands Rot­ter­dam Port in tenth position. 

It’s not by mis­take that Chi­na is the world’s sec­ond strongest econ­o­my while South Korea is the tenth largest econ­o­my. To a cer­tain extent, their port effi­cien­cy trans­lates to the strength of their economies. 

Mean­while, Mom­basa Port’s annu­al con­tain­er traf­fic this year is pro­ject­ed to reach 1.48 million TEU, almost fifty times less than Shang­hai Port’s 2021 traf­fic. Telling­ly, there isn’t a sin­gle sub-Saha­ran African Port in the world’s top fifty ports. This is rob­bing Africa the finan­cial boost that ports deliver. 

Thank­ful­ly, as Kenya takes strides that will turn Mom­basa Port into a world class port, I humbly sug­gest that we press hard on the fol­low­ing four things which are part of the 21 rec­om­men­da­tions from the Port Reforms Work­ing Group Con­sul­ta­tive Forum.  This will con­se­quent­ly inject more growth into the econ­o­my across Kenya and East Africa. 

First­ly, we need to stream­line the pre-arrival clear­ance. This is the first step towards enhanc­ing car­go clear­ance and car­go off-take at the Port. Goods should arrive at to seam­less process, not a clogged one that leads to unwar­rant­ed charges that are even­tu­al­ly trans­ferred to end users. 

Sec­ond­ly, export process­es should be most effi­cient because any slight delay affects ship turn­around time. Multi­ple agen­cies can’t con­tin­ue plac­ing holds on var­i­ous con­sign­ments when the world is beck­on­ing for goods from Africa.

Third­ly, we need to boost Mom­basa Port’s trans­ship­ment capac­i­ty. Trans­ship­ment means unload­ing car­go from one ves­sel and load­ing them into anoth­er to com­plete a jour­ney to the final des­ti­na­tion. The Port of Sin­ga­pore is the busiest trans­ship­ment port in the world and accounts for 20% of the globe’s trans­ship­ment traf­fic. Since time is mon­ey, trans­ship­ment rides on the back of speed and efficiency. 

That’s why it was heart­warm­ing to see Pres­i­dent Ruto lead­ing from the front when it comes to increas­ing Mombasa’s Port’s effi­cien­cy. As a case in point, he direct­ed all Gov­ern­ment relat­ed agen­cies oper­at­ing at the Port to work for twen­ty-four hours, sev­en days a week to ensure that there is no pro­ce­dure downtime. 

Fourth­ly, we should reduce the num­ber of weigh­bridges and police road­blocks along the north­ern Cor­ri­dor. This will result in reduc­tion of tran­sit times along the Cor­ri­dor, thus mak­ing it more com­pet­i­tive. We must keep in mind that land­locked coun­tries like Ugan­da and Rwan­da depend on us. The less time trucks bound for these coun­tries spend on our roads, the more mutu­al­ly ben­e­fi­cial busi­ness we shall be able to under­take with them. In this regard, the President’s direc­tive to reduce the weigh­bridges from six to two and to remove all police road­blocks should be imple­ment­ed with the urgency that it deserves. 

In the same spir­it of sav­ing time and mon­ey for our long dis­tance clients, we should har­mo­nize the Coun­ty cess fees levied by dif­fer­ent Coun­ty Gov­ern­ments. If we imple­ment these four mea­sures, along­side oth­er var­i­ous direc­tives by Pres­i­dent Ruto as rec­om­mend­ed by CS Moses Kuria and his team, we will con­tin­ue strid­ing towards the effi­cien­cy exhib­it­ed by Ports like Shang­hai and Sin­ga­pore and our econ­o­my will great­ly ben­e­fit. Think green, act green!

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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