Inside Politics

Kisumu port promises to boost jobs, economy

Tuesday, August 31st, 2021 00:00 |
Aerial view of the refurbished Kisumu Port. Photo/PD/Ffile

Kepher Otieno

After lying idle for nearly two decades, the Kisumu Port, refurbished at a cost of Sh3 billion, is roaring back, promising to spur economic growth in western Kenya and create job opportunities for thousands of people.

Although thousands of jobs were lost when operations at the lakeside port stalled almost 20 years ago, with diverse stakeholders in the wider maritime industry expressing hopes of better times ahead.

Kenya International Freight Forwarders and Warehousing Association (Kifwa) Secretary General Fredrick Aloo and board member George Ocholla said the re-opening of the port is likely to create more wealth and jobs.

For instance, the officials disclosed that the association will in the next one to three weeks open a regional office in Kisumu.

The offices are part of an initiative to strengthen the Kifwa’s regional presence, raise awareness about its work, build stronger relationships with regional public and local institutions, and local communities.

“We will have satellite offices in Isebania, Migori, Kisumu, Eldoret, Busia, Malaba to guide people on emerging port openings,’’ said Aloo.

Kifwa officials were speaking to the press in Kisumu on among other things; the impact of reopening of Kisumu port, expansion of Kisumu International Airport, and revival of rail transport business.

“With the new facilities business opportunities are many ranging from, cargo, warehouse, cold storage facilities and freight services,’’ said Aloo.

Ocholla said there are many new openings in clearing and forwarding jobs, storage and lake transport that investors should take advantage of.

“Once the port fully takes off, clearing agents would be needed to clear up the pile-up of cargo at the Kisumu Port.

This will create jobs,” he added. According to Oloo, Nyanza and Western Kenya business community should now take advantage of the port infrastructure to increase trade.

With the Sh3 billion investment, the port has expanded facilities to boost its capacity to handle more cargo and attract larger carriers.

The modernisation and expansion programmes have multiplied the port’s capacity to handle larger ships and turn-around more cargo.

Kisumu Port’s local cargo demand is estimated to rise and see strong growth in the initial stages following the rehabilitation works. 

Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) data shows that  taking Kisumu’s 2014 export figure of 28,034 tonnes as a starting point, cargo exports are estimated to increase to approximately 160,000 tonnes by 2025, and further to 230,000 tonnes by 2035. 

Spelling doom

Established in 1901, Kisumu Port used to be thriving in the 1970’s, 80s and 90s, before it went under spelling doom for Nyanza and western economy.

The port was a critical link in the East African rail and water transportation system with particular focus on freight transport.

It used to serve Port Bell and Jinja in Uganda and Mwanza, Bukoba, and Musoma in Tanzania.

Kisumu, was one of the largest, in terms of throughput, followed by Mwanza and Port Bell.

But the collapse also killed businesses in the subsidiary ports which are also now being refurbished as Kisumu.

Aloo urged the government to facilitate regional trade through provision of efficient and convenient services that will accelerate the port’s growth.

Ocholla also wants to see the once vibrant East African Railways and Harbors Corporation (EARHC) back into active use or motion.

He said, EARHC used to operate regular sailings from Kisumu to Port Bell in Uganda and Mwanza in Tanzania.

He recalled that marine and rail transport, used to promote transportation of cargo and passengers to and from the landlocked countries. “We are so happy that the government has underscored the need to revive active inland water transport, ’Ocholla told the Business Hub.

The Association vowed to work closely with the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) and Kenya Ports Authority (KPA), to grow Kisumu port. Currently, Kisumu port operates only at a fraction of its capacity and current throughput. 

Due to the deterioration of the rail connection from Mombasa to Kisumu, transit cargo volumes have decreased steeply over the last December. 

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