Tanzanian ports locking Kenya out of regional trade

 By Lee Mwiti

The vibrant expansion of Tanzania’s Dar es Salaam port and the Djibouti port are posing the biggest threat to the growth of Mombasa port, a new report says. The 2018 Africa Ports report by audit firm PriceWaterHouseCoopeers (PWC) has noted that the Tanzania government’s determined investment in the Dar port, and the development of other ports in Tanga and Bagamoyo, has greatly shut out Mombasa port as the dominant trade hub in the region. As a result, neighbours in the hinterland such as Uganda and Rwanda are now preferring the Tanzanian ports as transit points for cargo. Ethiopia, a country that is coming up strongly as an economic giant in the region, only crippled by its land-locked status, prefers the port of Djibouti.

“Mombasa would be a major contender to be an East African hub, only for the fact that it is greatly challenged by the proximity of the developing Dar-es-Salaam port and other Tanzanian ports. This makes it hard for Mombasa to emerge as an important hub,” the report reads in part. “Though posing much of a less threat, Djiobuti’s growth can also not be under-estimated. Mombasa should take advantage of the larger hinterland it serves, and improve its operational efficiencies to shrug off these threats.” The report also emphasises that for Kenya to regain its regional status as an economic powerhouse, which is being continually challenged by its neighbours, it has to be keen in developing its port infrastructure especially the Lamu port which is part of the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport (Lapsset) Corridor.

The corridor will connect the port of Lamu, with Sudan and Ethiopia through an 880-kilometre highway and a 1 710-kilometre railway. The Lapsset Corridor Programme is East Africa’s largest and most ambitious infrastructure project consisting of seven key infrastructure projects. According to the report, one of the major hurdles that is driving trade from the Mombasa port is the abnormally long container dwell time. Dwell time is the amount of time from when a container is offloaded until it leaves a port. The dwell time at Mombasa port is one of the longest in Africa, taking up to 50 per cent of the total land transport time from port to the hinterland cities. “Reducing port dwell time is critical to improving logistics efficiency,” the report notes.

TOP PHOTO: The Tanzanian port of Dar es Salaam. The World Bank is funding a series of upgrades. Credit: Carolina Eslava D’Isidoro
First Published by the Standard
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