PUBLISHED ON August 8th, 2014

Landmark Port Charter To Boost East African Trade Through Collective Commitment

The Mombasa Port which is the key intermodal point for road and rail trade along the Northern Corridor to Kampala, Kigali and beyond. The port recorded unprecedented growth in cargo volumes over the last ten years. Various projects and measures have been undertaken to improve port capacity and efficiency over the past few years.Past attempts to address some of the challenges that the port has experienced over the last four decades focused on Kenya Ports Authority as an institution, and wrongly excluded the multiplicity of statutory bodies, as well as private sector players who are an integral part of trade facilitation. Recognizing this, today key agencies drawn from government, private sector and civil society have signed an ambitious binding charter that will transform Mombasa into a high performing port by 2016.

Driven by a strong political will which comes from the very top, the Charter represents the culmination of stakeholder consultations, including government agencies, the business sector, civil society, the port community and special interest groups. Signed by 25 different agencies, it commits to overcoming obstacles and reaching or exceeding performance standards that will deliver goods to market with maximum efficiency and in minimum time.

According to Gilbert Langat, Chairman of the Port of Mombasa Community Charter, the launch of the charter follows over one year of intense consultations among all stakeholders, including government, business, civil society organizations and the Coastal Community.

Without inclusive consultations and agreement between with all port stakeholders, the port and the road corridor will continue to experience operational inefficiency” noted Langat.

TradeMark Africa ( TradeMark Africa (TMA) ) is one of the signatories, and has invested US$53 million to rehabilitate the port corridor. These funds come from eight bilateral donors, especially from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development. The funds are strengthening infrastructure such as gates and yards in the port, improving productivity with new electronic cargo management systems, and creating better law and regulation. TradeMark Africa (TMA) also played a large role in the creation of the Charter. TradeMark Africa (TMA) Kenya Director, Chris Kiptoo, is optimistic. “The document is a declaration of intent”, he said, “to commit certain actions which combined will create a seamless corridor from the port through the northern corridor. This will drive down costs of trade, and reduce high consumer prices for goods all across the region.

East Africa suffers from very high transport transit times. The delays in ports and at border posts in processing goods leading to increased costs of transporting goods, especially to landlocked countries in the hinterland. Freight costs per kilometer are more than 50% higher than costs in the United States and Europe. For landlocked countries, they can be as high as 75% of the total value of exports.

Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA), which represents the private sector, also welcomes the Charter, and the accompanying electronic dashboard that measures key indicators of port efficiency. “The key is competitiveness and efficiency,” said Carol(e?) Kariuki, CEO at KEPSA. “Efficiency is good for the Kenyan economy. Removing transport bottlenecks means transport costs will come down, . The consumer benefits in terms of lower prices for goods in the shops. Meanwhile, there will be more money left for large and small companies to invest in modern logistics and production.. But most important, the benefits can be passed on to the consumer. Port efficiency,” she concluded, “enhances the competitiveness of the general business climate and makes it easier to export successfully too, boosting the economic growth of the region.”

Ms Karin Andersson, the TradeMark Africa (TMA) PIC Chair and representative of the TradeMark Africa (TMA) donors highlighted the importance of the Mombasa Port Charter to the region. “The reforms at the Mombasa Port will ultimately reduce the high cost of trade & doing business and create an environment which allows for new jobs and ultimately citizens paying less for basic goods.

And positive change is already in motion.

According to Gichiri Ndua, the Managing Director, Kenya Ports Authority, the Mombasa Port Corridor is already reaping the benefits of the port reforms.

Port productivity has improved and container dwell time has reduced to 4 days from 10 days. This is as a result of implementing some of the recommendation in the charter,” noted Ndua.

Transit time of container laden trucks to Malaba is now consistent at less than 5 days, down from 8 days. The Port of Mombasa is currently the deepest port in East Africa and can accommodate container ships of up to 8,000 TEUs.

President Uhuru Kenyatta in June 2013 issued a directive to streamline port operations so as to improve efficiency and reduce transit time from Mombasa to Malaba from 18 days to 5.

At the launch, President Uhuru was keen to ensure that charter signatories are held accountable through a monitoring mechanism. “Too often in the past, ambitious initiatives of this kind have been launched, only to fade away for lack of monitoring. We cannot let that happen here. We cannot let the charter we launch today become another document, gathering dust deep in a forgotten office. I wish, therefore to ask TradeMark Africa to make available, preferable online, a quarterly report that gives us hard data on the progress of the initiative. We must and we will hold each other accountable

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of TradeMark Africa.