Kenyans are upbeat about the intended establishment of nine major cities in Lamu, Garissa, Isiolo, Marsabit, Moyale, Lodwar, Maralal, Wajir and Mandera following the ongoing construction of the Sh2.5 trillion Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia Transport (Lapsset) corridor project.
The Lamu Port project plan includes a 32-berth port, transportation hubs for rail, highway and international airports in Lamu, Isiolo and Lodwar; oil pipelines from South Sudan, Uganda and Ethiopia to Lamu Port; an oil refinery and three resort cities in Isiolo, Lamu and Turkana.
The nine cities lie within the Lapsset corridor and their completion is set to open northern Kenya to trade, tourism, and industrialisation among other benefits.
Lapsset Corridor Development Authority CEO Silvestre Kasuku said planning for the first four cities is expected to begin in the current financial year.
They include Lamu, Garissa, Isiolo and Lodwar. “We want to complete planning of at least seven cities by 2020. By that time, Lamu Port will have begun operations,” said Mr Kasuku. The cities are expected to be a game-changer for the region which has for decades suffered marginalisation by successive governments. Lamu Port City is expected to host about a million people. According to Mr Kasuku, inter-regional highways from Lamu to Isiolo to Nakodok, Juba in South Sudan, Isiolo to Moyale and Addis Ababa, and Lamu to Garsen have already been initiated.
He said engineering designs are complete for the 537 kilometre Lamu-Garissa-Isiolo road. Construction of the 738 kilomtre Isiolo–Lokichar–Nakodok road has already started.
“These cities will connect northern Kenya to the rest of the country and outside. As we plan to establish such major cities, we have already ensured improved infrastructure. As we speak, the road connecting Isiolo, Marsabit and Moyale which is around 505 kilometres long is already complete,” said Mr Kasuku. According to Lapsset Corridor Development Authority Chairman Francis Muthaura, setting up key cities will transform the region into an industrial, technical, logistics, investment as well as tourism hub. “There will be increased market access to goods and livestock produced from the region,” said Mr Muthaura.
With the cities in place, other crucial amenities will be incorporated. Airports will build to boost air transport and the logistics business. Preliminary facilities at Manda Airport in Lamu are complete, including a 2.3 kilometre runway and terminal building. Officials said investment in the resort cities’ facilities will be made by public private partnerships. It is envisioned that the project will raise investment and employment opportunities and improve the economy.