Complete LAPSSET highways to hasten north Kenya development


Works going on at Lapsset project in Lamu. FILE PHOTO | NMG

When then-President Kibaki commissioned the LAPSSET master plan in 2011, the key driver was opening up northern Kenya to socioeconomic development by aligning the region's potential with that of the rest of Kenya.

The north was, and remains, characterised by under-development and insecurity.

The LAPSSET corridor infrastructure, especially the highways, was expected to tap wide-ranging economic resources in the area, while simultaneously improving human capacity and the economic well-being of the population through increased communication, trade, and inter-community social contacts.

The infrastructure comprises Lamu port, highways, railways, airports, a crude oil pipeline, and a refinery stretching from Lamu through to South Sudan and Ethiopia.

The first phase of Lamu port is complete and includes facilities for exporting livestock. The Lamu/Garissa highway is under construction, while the section though Isiolo to Lokichar is yet to be funded.

The Isiolo-Moyale highway is operational with economic benefits already accruing. Lamu and Isiolo airports have been done.

Funding uncertainties have delayed infrastructure to commercialise Turkana oil deposits. Overall, LAPSSET directly impacts about 10 counties.

When new highways reach remote areas, new towns, and markets spring up, attracting traders and travellers from all over as communication becomes easy.

Administration of security and emergency response improves as new highways significantly improve administrative presence and services.

The availability of major highways prompts the upgrade of feeder roads further interior, improving inter-community contact, cohesion and security.

The agricultural economy of counties to the south will easily link with the pastoral economy of the northern counties, thus improving food security.

Pastoralism (cattle, camels, goats, and sheep) is the main economic activity along the LAPSSET corridor. The county governments will need to modernise and commercialise livestock value chains to link up with export and local markets.

The LAPSSET highways were specifically expected to ferry livestock from northern Kenya, South Sudan, and Ethiopia to Lamu port for export.

Over time, the organised economy in the north will usher in money markets and modern consumption, which will prompt a lifestyle shift away from cattle rustling and violence.

The North has significant unexploited natural resources (oil, gas, and minerals) and huge renewable energy (solar, wind, geothermal) potential.

Various forms of tourism can be scaled-up once networks of roads and airports are in place, and security is assured.

The LAPSSET corridor should be prioritised with budgets by national and county governments to enhance socioeconomic development to drive citizen wellbeing and harmony.

From “up there” the late President Kibaki could be monitoring progress on his pet legacy LAPSSET project. We should not disappoint him.

For information, I was in the consultancy team that undertook the LAPSSET feasibility study.

George Wachira is a petroleum consultant. [email protected]