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By Sea, By Rail, By Air — How Kenya Is Revolutionizing Its Transportation Systems

Yesterday, the Corporate Council on Africa and the Government of the Republic of Kenya presented the Doing Business in Kenya Forum, an all-day conference focused on trade and investment opportunities in one of Africa’s largest economies and the anchor nation of the East African region.  Of the various initiatives which were detailed by the participating senior government officials, the Kenyan government’s work to revolutionize the nation’s transportation infrastructure stands out as one of the most significant examples of recent strides forward.

Dredging of Mombasa port. Kenya’s second largest city, Mombasa, is home to a port which services a significant majority of the imports and exports of the East African countries.  Although the last decade had seen total cargo volumes through the port grow at an annual rate of 11.6% (versus a global average of 7.1%), the region was unable to realize the full potential of the port because of its and relatively smaller size and shallow depths.  To address this issue, the Kenya Ports Authority commissioned a $59 million dredging and expansion project.  Completed in 2012, the expansion has made it possible for the port to accommodate ships with 4500 TEU capacity compared to the previous 2000 TEU capacity.  These improvements are just the first steps in what President Uhuru Kenyatta has described as the “government’s manifest intention to turn the Port of Mombasa into the largest, busiest and most business-friendly seaport on the East African coast.”

Developing a standard gauge railway. Complementing the expansion of the Mombasa port is a $2.5 billion project (set to begin next month) to construct a standard gauge railway from Mombasa to Nairobi with plans to later extend it to Malaba and Kampala.  One of the centerpieces of Vision 2030 and “the largest project to be undertaken in the country in 50 years,” the modern, high-speed and high-capacity standard railway “is expected to transfer freight from roads to rail reducing rapid roads damage [and] provide safe and rapid intercity passenger transport.”  In addition to more convenient transport options, Kenyans also should see a significant reduction in the price of commodities due to the reduction in the cost of moving the goods.

Constructing Greenfield Terminal at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. Along with the highly successful Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airways is one of the continent’s premier airline carriers and its hub is the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi.  At the end of last year, the Kenya Airports Authority broke ground on the construction of a new terminal that will increase the airport’s annual handling capacity by 20 million passengers, a four-fold increase to current capacity.  The new terminal is a necessary response to the 12% annual rate of growth in the airport’s traffic which is set to hit 25 million per year by 2025.  And, considering Kenya Airways’ current reliance on fleet parking space at Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro Airport, an expanded Jomo Kenyatta International Airport will provide the essential foundation for the carrier’s plans to triple its current fleet and add 60 destinations in 32 countries over the course of the next decade.

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