OPINION: Investment in Coastal infrastructure key to unlocking growth

By Michael Cherambos

Mombasa and the Coastal region have long been known as idyllic locations for Kenyan holiday makers seeking to sink their toes into sand and sea water, and enjoy some tropical sun.

Many of us have childhood memories of spending time there with our families eating fresh seafood and relaxing. But despite our pristine Indian Ocean shores and an abundance of traditional Swahili cultural activities to explore in the region, Mombasa has remained underutilised as a tourism destination for foreigners.

Most people who arrive to Kenya for vacation come for the safaris and the bush. Someone who is not very knowledgeable about Kenya does not immediately think of beach holiday when they plan an itinerary for a trip here. That is, until now.

The investments in Kenya’s tourism infrastructure under the Uhuru administration continue to grow, with the recent announcement of a state of the art cruise ship terminal at the Port of Mombasa just the most recent. The millennial generation, across Africa, Europe, Asia and North America, is more accustomed to traveling and exploring the world than any previous generation.

The rising global middle class is becoming more and more well-travelled. Other countries are benefitting from boons to their travel industry, and thanks to our president’s investment, we will begin to reap more benefits too.

The Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) announced that its latest project at the Port of Mombasa aims to support the growth of the tourism sector — one of our national budget’s most important revenue streams. Built through an investment of Ksh.350 million, the revamped port will serve more passengers with restaurants, duty-free shops and conference facilities.

KPA Managing Director Daniel Manduku explained this, noting that “the terminal is expected to play a key role in boosting the tourism sector in the coast region and the rest of the country.”

This is the first time that Kenya has had cruise facilities, which have long served to boost tourism industries in Europe and Central America. Visitors will be greeted by local culture, entertainment and cuisine before enjoying their beach holiday or venturing further inland for safari.

In the past, Kenya typically welcomed about 10 vessels with around 40,000 tourists visiting the country per year. This number is expected to rise significantly.

But that is not the only recent investment in Mombasa’s port. New projects to improve shipping efficiency developed under Uhuru’s authority compliment the Big Four Agenda by ensuring that trade increases and runs smoothly.

Previously, yard congestion in the Port of Mombasa has reduced the facilitation of transferred goods to Nairobi and beyond. Operations have been hindered as stock arrives to Mombasa but is not moved quickly.

But following the recent construction of a second container terminal, the port has experienced growth of 7.3 percent in terms of how much cargo it can handle. In 2019, it handled 1.425 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEUS).
According to the KPA, the port handled 28.5 million tonnes of cargo in 2018. But in 2019, due to the second container terminal, this figure increased to over 34 million tonnes.

According to Dr. Manduku, KPA is working on transforming the Mombasa port into the third largest in Africa in terms of cargo transport. Right now, it stands in fifth place after Port Said, Durban, Tanger-Med and Alexandria.

Kenya has recently lost some business to the renovated port in Dar es Salam, but efforts like these enable the easier passage of cargo through Kenya before traveling to Nairobi on the SGR and then extending elsewhere in Africa. For example, the Kenya-Tanzania line through Taveta continues to Tanzania and Burundi, but has not seen significant use since its completion in 2017.

This is in part because our ports were not accessible enough and shipping through Mombasa has in the past been a logistical hassle.

But Mombasa is undergoing a period of rapid growth and change – both in terms of tourism and cargo shipping. This goes hand in hand with increasing Kenyan manufacturing, enabling farmers to sell their stock and helping factories to improve the quality and diversity of goods they have to offer.

With all of the recent infrastructural developments and increased connectivity across Kenya, we can look forward to a prosperous decade of growth and plenitude.

Michael Cherambos comments on topical socio-political issues; Michaelcherambos1@gmail.com

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