Launch of Port Projects in Kenya’s Lake Region to Catalyse East Africa’s Regional Trade and Integration

The Government of Kenya’s commitment to fast-track the construction of the Homa Bay Pier and other trade facilitation initiatives along the shores of Lake Victoria is expected to spur regional trade by reducing the time and costs of doing business. During his recent 4-day visit to the Nyanza region, Kenya’s President, William Ruto, launched several infrastructure and logistics projects, including commissioning of the newly built MV Uhuru II cargo ship at the Kisumu Shipyard, construction of the Homa Bay pier, and several roads slated for an upgrade to bitumen standards.

These projects are proof of the productive partnerships between the Kenyan government and its development partners, aimed at enhancing digital and physical infrastructure, thereby boosting efficiency in trade and transport sectors. The pier, a structure extending from the shoreline into the lake, will facilitate the loading and unloading of cargo from ships. It is part of a series of efforts to enhance the connectivity of Kisumu in Kenya to Entebbe and Jinja in Uganda, and Mwanza in Tanzania via the lake, deepening trade and transport across the three countries and generating thousands of direct and indirect jobs.

Uhuru II Cargo

The construction of the pier is scheduled for completion in six months and is fully funded by the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA). The design and supervision works are funded by Denmark through TradeMark Africa. Civil works entail the rehabilitation of the causeway and jetty head, the construction of standard buildings, including a waiting lounge and attendant amenities, a cargo warehouse, a perimeter fence, a gatehouse, a ticket office, as well as power and water supply and ICT systems.

President Ruto underlined the significance of these interventions, noting, “The investments we are making in the region will elevate Lake Victoria’s profile as the maritime transport of choice and help exploit its huge untapped economic potential.” He emphasized the strategic importance of Lake Victoria in reducing trade costs and bolstering East Africa’s intra-regional trade and integration. TradeMark Africa is already actively engaged in initiatives that align with these goals. For instance, the Kisumu Port Resilient Infrastructure Project aims to invigorate multimodal cargo transfer from roads and rail to water transport. As part of this project, TMA is supporting KPA to conduct pre-project activities, including bathymetric and topographic surveys that entail the measurement of the depth of lake water and the mapping of the natural and man-made features of the area, respectively. These studies will guide the design and scope of rehabilitation works and the development of various ports on Lake Victoria, including Kisumu Port and feeder ports.

Studies suggest that a 5-hour journey by road can be reduced to less than 1 hour through lake transport. This reduction has profound implications, not only in terms of cost and time savings in trade but also in the reduction of carbon emissions and less wear and tear on road infrastructure.