Somaliland port pact puts moribund Lapsset in the spotlight

Monday January 08 2024

Workers at work at the new Lamu Port-South Sudan Ethiopia Transport Corridor site in Kililana in Lamu West. PHOTO | NMG


Ethiopia’s determination to gain direct passage to the Red Sea to be used as a military base and for commercial purposes for the next 50 years has once more thrust the $25 billion Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia Transport (Lapsset) into the spotlight.

Ethiopia's move, if finally endorsed by Mogadishu, will directly have economic repercussions for Kenya, which has been courting the country to use the Lamu port for commercial services. (Mogadishu has nullified it: Somalia signs law 'nullifying' Ethiopia-Somaliland port deal)

Kenya was looking to Ethiopia as one of its main clients after South Sudan, which was at the forefront during the initiation of the project backed off due to the delayed implementation of key projects and lack of funding.

Lapsset is stuck on the starting blocks due to lack of funding and increasing insecurity on the corridor.

Kenya and its landlocked neighbours Ethiopia and South Sudan committed to raise funds to build infrastructure linking their economies on the Lapsset Corridor but not much has happened with each country opting to fund its own projects.

Read: Kenya, Ethiopia revive hopes of Lapsset with talk of new railway


But Lapsset regional manager in charge of Coast Salim Bunu is still optimistic that the project will go on.

“Ethiopia has completed a number of infrastructure projects connecting to Kenya and they cannot let that go to waste. On our end, we strive to complete the remaining road projects which are 65 percent done to connect Lamu and southern Ethiopia,” he said.

Kenya has so far used up $1.39 billion in the construction of roads and other infrastructure and only three Lamu port berths have been completed.

Lapsset is meant to link the three states via rail, airports, roads and oil pipelines.