Unlocking Africa's Maritime Potential

Published on 27th April 2017

Whenever the issue of maritime business is under discussion, the temptation is to dwell more on what is happening in the oceans and waterfront facilities than on land developments. Experts in the maritime domain agree that there is a symbiotic relationship between the dynamics of economic activities on land and water. Potential business opportunities in one sector have both a direct and indirect business impact on the other. For instance, to maximize on the successful exploitation of the oceans and inland waterways, there must be commensurate efforts to develop the interfacing and interconnecting transport systems. Hence, there must be a deliberate effort to balance the developments of both the land and water sectors.

Nevertheless, having agreed that developments in both sectors are paramount, we remain alive to the fact that over 90% of the world's import and export trade is conducted by sea. At this juncture the million dollar question then is; has Africa fully exploited its maritime business potential? And this is why my address will focus on Africa's growing maritime business opportunities to deliver world class services, facilities and efficiencies.

Africa's Economic Status

Africa is developing fast and is showing some impressive progress. Verified research reports reveal that over the past decade, Africa has recorded an average of 4 to 5 percent growth in GDP, despite recent upheavals in the international economic and financial environments.

Marine Business Opportunities

Africa's natural resources have largely been underexploited, but are now being recognized for their potential contribution to inclusive and sustainable development. A policy handbook by the United Nations Conference for Trade and Development (UNCTAD) offers a step by step guide on how African countries can realize the full potential of Marine opportunities. In a paper published last year by Dr. Carlos Lopes of UNCTAD, it is forecast that by 2020, the economic value of maritime related activities will reach 2.5 trillion Euros per year. Where do African countries fit in all this?

What areas in the maritime space offer value for business and entrepreneurship? The main focus areas are: Fisheries and aquaculture, tourism, manufacturing, transport, ports, coastal mining and energy. There is therefore, a need to employ a holistic integrated approach to ensure these business aspects are successfully exploited.

It is encouraging to observe that a number of countries on the continent are formulating strategies to mainstream the marine economy (blue economy) in their respective national economic development strategies and plans. For example, the Seychelles has established a full-fledged ministry committed to promoting blue economy activities. In South Africa, the well-publicized OPERATION PHAKISA seems to be on track towards unlocking lucrative oceanic opportunities as set out in the Country's National development plan. Mauritius government programme 2015 reflects the vision of Mauritius to transform the country into an ocean state by promoting the ocean economy as one of the main pillars of its development.

In Kenya, the government has demonstrated commitment towards the Marine Economy through the creation of several State Departments focusing on different aspects of the sector, through Executive Order No.1/2016, Organization of the Government of the Republic of Kenya, May 2016. This economic development model for Kenyan marine waters is poised to accelerate economic growth in the country, create new frontiers for development, bring employment and address the food security in the coastal areas, all in a sustainable manner.

Last year, the President signed into law the Fisheries Management and Development Bill which provides for the conservation, management and development of fisheries and aquatic resources.


As I have mentioned, Ports are key players in trade facilitation and cargo fluidity in the maritime logistics supply chain. The question is; what should come first: Ports or the other maritime business opportunities and developments? In other words; should we develop ports in anticipation of the business opportunities or should we let the exploitation of the opportunities drive ports development agenda? I will not try to answer to these questions. Let the deliberations that will follow provide the answers. However, for now and from what has been experienced in the industry, ports stand a better chance to do good and sustainable business, when they develop facilities ahead of demand and in anticipation of business opportunities.

Port development opportunities

Although, it is well understood that a port in itself is a maritime development opportunity, we should be alive to the fact that ports play a critical and catalytic role in the development and successful exploitation of other business opportunities. We should therefore concern ourselves with what ports are doing to improve services to world class standards.

Ports across the world are moving towards new & dynamic approaches to port development. In Africa, there is also evidence that Port authorities and relevant institutions have made significant strides to improve efficiency. They are diversifying their strategies to enable them stay focused and responsive to maritime business demands and opportunities. They are building specialised port facilities; Developing Multipurpose Port Terminals and focusing on becoming large scale hub-ports. These efforts can be seen in Nigeria, South Africa, Djibouti, Kenya, Algeria, among others.

Back home, the Port of Mombasa is a critical nerve centre of business serving Uganda, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Northern Tanzania, Burundi, South Sudan and Somalia. It is well connected with over 33 shipping lines calling and providing direct connectivity to over 80 ports globally. The Port is managed by the Kenya Ports Authority which is also responsible for the management of other scheduled seaports and inland waterways.

The Port of Mombasa has 19 deep-water berths with a total length of 3,844 metres and dredged depth that ranges between 10 and 15 metres. It has six container berths with a length of 1,400 metres (including the new container terminal), two bulk cement berths and two bulk oil jetties for tankers.


Distinguished delegates,

The port handles millions of imports and exports for the region. Over the last ten years, total cargo traffic through the Port of Mombasa increased by 7.1 percent per annum, rising from 14.419 million tons in 2006 to 27.36 million tons in 2016.

Port developments

To remain responsive to the maritime opportunities and demands, we at the Kenya Ports Authority have laid down development strategies that are witnessing progression of:

1. Expansion of Mombasa Container Terminal to handle 1.5 million TEUs per annum. Phase one with a capacity of 550,000 TEUs was completed and commissioned last year. Phase two will commence mid this year.

2. Development of a new Crude Oil Handling Facility with a capacity to accommodate four and bigger tankers of up to 200,000 dwt.

3. Dongo Kundu Special Economic Zone (SEZ) and Freeport

The project is one of the flagship projects to be implemented under Kenya's Vision 2030. It involves the development of SEZ and a free port on 3,000 acres of land owned by the Authority in Dongo Kundu area through Public Private Partnership arrangements.

4. Development of Small Ports - Shimoni Port has been a national priority and is in line with the National Transport Sector Policy and KPA's Strategic Plan.

5. Development of Kisumu Port and other Lake Victoria Port into a modern commercial Lake Port to serve the growing trade in the EAC region.

6. Capital Dredging was carried out in two phases. Phase I was completed in 2012. Phase II is required to accommodate the development of various upcoming projects such as the Dongo Kundu Freeport, Relocation of KOT and development of a Gas Fired Electricity Generation plant (GFEGP).

7.Green Port Initiative is a pro-active, comprehensive approach to address the environmental impact of port activities and operations.

8. Construction of Port at Lamu and LAPSSET Transit Corridor

Lamu Port is one of Kenya's Vision 2030 flagship projects, with a regional outlook. It will provide a reliable access to the sea for Northern/Eastern parts of Kenya, South Sudan and Ethiopia, which have hitherto remained without direct access to the sea.

Construction of the first three berths has started and the first berth is expected to be ready by August 2018.

By Catherine Mturi-Wairi

Managing Director, The Kenya Ports Authority

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