Why Lapsset is stuck on the starting blocks

Wednesday February 09 2022

Workers at the Lapsset project in Kenya. Some 2,000 casual labourers were recently sent home by Lapsset contractor, China Communications Construction Company, after an al-Shabaab attack. PHOTO | FILE | NMG


Three years after Kenya and its landlocked neighbours Ethiopia and South Sudan committed to raise funds to build infrastructure linking their economies on the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia-Transport (Lapsset) Corridor, not much has happened.

Kenya Lapsset Corridor Development Authority Chair Titus Ibui said there was a need to mobilise funds and improve on security to ensure the projects are completed.

Speaking at a Lamu stakeholders and leadership consultative meeting in Mombasa on February 3, Mr Ibui said a number of projects have stalled as a result of insecurity after suspected al-Shabaab militants attacked residents and even contractors forcing the project implementers to flee.

“We are concerned about the insecurity in Lamu that is crippling progress of Lapsset projects. We have seen contractors suspend works due to insecurity but we are addressing that,” said Mr Ibui.

On funding, Mr Ibui said Kenya has so far used up $1.39 billion in the construction of roads and other infrastructure from its coffers.

Lapsset is meant to link the three states via rail, airports, roads and oil pipelines. If successful, Lamu would become eastern Africa’s largest seaport with 23 berths.


China Communications Construction Company Ltd last month withdrew its workers from various projects in Lamu County after eight vehicles used in constructing the Lapsset Corridor Project access road were torched by al-Shabaab militants.

The 453-kilometre Lamu Port Development Road project network began in April 2021 and was estimated to take 24 months. It comprises the 257km section of the Lamu-Ijara-Garissa road, the 113km Hindi-Bodhei-Basuba-Kiunga road and the 83km Ijara-Sanghailu-Hulugho section.

With the projects having been hit by delays and security challenges, it is unclear whether the port, power plant, railway and other facilities from the Lamu port, through to South Sudan and Ethiopia will be completed on time.

So far, only construction of the $354 million first phase of the port has been completed. The second and third berths were completed in December leading to Kenya floating tenders for 20 more berths under a public private partnership plan.

Since the port became operational in May 2021, it has handled nine vessels and 1,619 twenty feet-equivalent units in its first berth, according to the Kenya Ports Authority database.

Mr Ibui said Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta plans to open the three berths in May this year. Ethiopia and South Sudan are expected to start using the facility thereafter.

In an MoU signed by ministers in the Lapsset implementing states to speed up the projects, they agreed on joint budgetary allocation to ensure the projects along the corridor are completed on time.