March 25, 2012
As if from a deep slumber Kenya has woken up to claim her place as an emerging market in Africa and a regional powerhouse. The country’s dominant role in the East African region is becoming more apparent by the day.
Two events that happened recently have sent the signal that Kenya is poised to play even a bigger role in the regional economy.
The ground breaking ceremony for the Lamu Port that is still fresh in our minds and the landing of an international flight in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu only a few months after the Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) crossed the border to pursue the Al Shabaab militants are key milestones.
These two events may look remote to each other but these are harbingers of the great economic exploits that are going to unfold in the region and where Kenya will play a central role.
Kenya is poised to be the gateway and transport hub in East Africa, the Great Lakes Region and beyond.
The landing of an international airline in Mogadishu is important to Kenya and is a reason good enough to toss champagne. The reason is that it has come after the Kenyan Defence Forces (KDF) made an incursion into the lawless Somalia in pursuit of the Al Shabaab militia who had made the country ungovernable. The landing is clear testimony that KDF, UN-backed Amisom forces and the Somalia Transition Forces have greatly succeeded in pacifying the militias.
It is a vote of confidence that the work of KDF and allies are bearing fruits. Recent images of a robust life in Kismayu — the port city that had been under an iron grip of the Al Shabaab, further indicate that the militias are cornered and could be on their last legs.
15 million people locally
The building of the Sh1.8 trillion Lamu Port is bound to be a game changer. The port will open the marginalised regions of the northern frontier and will have a huge impact on the economies of Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and Southern Sudan.
It will directly influence the lives of more than 15 million people locally and another million in Southern Sudan and Ethiopia.
It has the potential to impact directly on the livelihood of 166 million people in Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan, with other accruing benefits from infrastructure development ranging from better roads network, rail, airports, oil pipeline and refinery, resort cities as well as the port itself.
It is expected that this massive project will trigger employment and economic activities never witnessed since independence in Kenya.
For a long time this region has been greatly underdeveloped and provided fertile ground for militias.
But with the opening of the area the region is bound to enjoy stability and especially after the brilliant display of muscle by KDF, Kenya will remain the big brother and the economic hub of the region.
The building of an oil pipeline from South Sudan to Lamu will be another economic milestone that will impact on business big time. Already South Sudan has announced plans to start exporting oil by road and through the port of Mombasa as Lamu Port is being constructed.
More importantly for Kenya is the integration of the region where millions of residents are going to be able to do business across more than six countries.
This integration will ensure future stability of these countries especially those that are emerging from strife like South Sudan and Somalia.
With more regional integration stability of every country within the region becomes the business of every member state. For instance with the pipeline running from Juba to Lamu, it becomes the business of South Sudan to take great interest in the stability of Kenya.
The same way the infamous 2008 post election violence affected Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi to a point where Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni protested loudly especially the uprooting of the Kenya-Uganda railway at Kibera.
Kenya can play even a bigger role in the integration of the region with the aim of creating a big economic block. Kenya has already played key roles in the establishment of peace in South Sudan and Somalia and has been home to hundreds of thousands of refugees from these countries.
On the homefront the country has seen an explosion of many multi-billion shilling infrastructure projects that are about to transform the country.
One such project is the Thika Superhighway — whose benefits are already being felt. If Kenya plays her cards well she will emerge as the biggest economic, diplomatic and military player in the region, which will help her achieve the Vision 2030 and enjoy the benefits, contained therein.
Source: The Standard