Kenya and South Sudan have embarked on a fresh bid to increase cross-border trade with the planned construction of a Sh87.5 billion highway.
Roads minister Franklin Bett and his South Sudan counterpart Gier Aluong Tuesday said the two nations had agreed to upgrade the 960km Eldoret-Juba road to international highway standards and build a one-stop border post at Nadapal besides other transport amenities.
“The two countries view the road as being critical in promoting cross-border trade and making it easy for landlocked South Sudan to transport goods through the port of Mombasa,” they said in a joint statement.
The Eldoret-Juba road is in a deplorable state, partly due to high traffic by relief agencies’s heavy commercial vehicles taking supplies to South Sudan and lack of regular maintenance.
The new highway would be built to bitumen standards.
“When completed, the road is expected to contribute to economic growth in the region through increased trade and better access from landlocked countries to the Mombasa port,” the ministers said.
The governments, with the help of the World Bank, will jointly approach development partners for concessionary and syndicated financing of the $1 billion (Sh87.5 billion) project.
A feasibility study and detailed design of the South Sudan side of the road project has been completed while one on the Kenyan side is expected in September.
Traders who frequently use the route have welcomed the plans.
“The bad state of the road puts off traders and travellers who are also in constant fear of bandit attacks. Vehicle owners charge highly for services,” Joshua Ochieng, a fish trader who shuttles between Lake Turkana and Nairobi’s City Market said on phone.
South Sudan is at present trying to open up its economy to trade with partners in eastern Africa in a bid to consolidate its growth after it successfully seceded from Sudan in July 2011.
Its poor transportation link to Kenya was among the weaknesses that a team appointed by the EAC Council of Ministers fronted last year to delay Juba’s membership to the regional bloc.
“Given its proximity and the fact that South Sudan just got its independence a year ago, it is perfectly normal for the two nations to engage in joint programmes,” said Richard Sindiga, head of economic affairs at Kenya’s EAC ministry
Kenya and South Sudan said the one-stop border post would supplement the role of the new highway in boosting regional trade. The one-border-post concept helps in harmonising transit clearance procedures by having officers from two bordering countries handle transit documents concurrently, saving on time.
Currently, goods are separately inspected by officers on either side of the border, leading to delays. Impatient truckers and traders often resort to offering bribes either to jump queues or expedite clearance of their cargo.
Kenya and other EAC members have adopted the one-stop-border system as they harmonise customs clearance to reduce the cost of doing business.
The ministers said the section of the planned road from Lokichar to Juba would form part of the Lamu Port Southern Sudan Ethiopia Transport Corridor (Lapsset).
Lapsset is a $25 billion (about Sh2.5 trillion) integrated infrastructure project meant to improve trade between Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan. It entails construction of a new port in Lamu as well as a railway, pipeline, highway, airport and refinery.
Besides cutting over-reliance on Kenya’s existing Mombasa port, the project is aimed at deepening trade and opening up northern Kenya, a vast area whose vast economic potential is yet to be tapped because of infrastructure challenges.