June 14, 2013 in News
The Kenya Ports Authority (http://www.kpa.co.ke) claims that it has a vision to provide ‘World class seaports of choice’, a noble and seemingly lofty ambition. On the strength of recent feedback from HABA clients using the Port of Mombasa it would appear that in the case of Kenya’s premier port it is evident that the KPA has a lot more work to do. Complaints are legion, with the three most common words used to describe the response to poor service and delays being; “arrogance”, “complacency” and “indifference”. Makhtar Diop, the World Bank Vice-President for Africa on a recent visit to Mombasa has also voiced his concerns over inefficiencies, so it is clear that the problem is a serious one. The parlous situation at the Port of Mombasa mirrors that of its great rival the Port of Dar es Salaam, with both of these Kenyan and Tanzanian strategic gateway ports have become synonymous with poor management, inexplicable delays, high port charges, theft and corruption. Landlocked countries such as Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda are also beginning to express their dissatisfaction, with Ugandan MPs claiming that the port’s inefficiencies are forcing their country’s business costs. Matters have not been helped by the fact that the National Government has viewed the Port of Mombasa as little more than a milch cow. Years of underinvestment and the sticky fingers of politicians have meant that a port with enormous potential has consistently fallen short of expectations. Growing international interest in East Africa and adjacent regions has begun to encourage serious exploration of alternatives and this has acted as something of a wake-up call. It would be churlish to deny that there has been some attempt to address matters. A new cargo berth is being constructed by the China Roads and Bridge Corporation, whilst a Dutch company, Van Oord Dredging and Marine Contractors have carried out vital dredging work at the Kalindini channel. The Japanese funded Mombasa Port Area Roads Development Project otherwise known as the Dongo Kundu Bypass will also go some way to alleviating the traffic bottlenecks that have blighted Mombasa and its environs. Many would like to see the port privatised, but there are legitimate concerns locally that this could have an adverse impact on employment prospects. The dynamic local Governor, Hon. Hassan Ali Joho (http://www.hassanjoho.com) is well aware that maintaining the status quo is not an option. In this regard he has recently been in Malaysia meeting potential investors with a view to the development of a free port project that could see Mombasa emulating Port Klang, the largest port in Malaysia. By all accounts interest has been considerable and a sizeable delegation is due to visit Kenya in a few weeks time.
Mombasa is eager to ensure that the port works effectively, and to ensure that a reasonable share of income generated stays in the region. Kenya’s second city has its own traditions and in many ways a quite different outlook and feel to Nairobi. Rather less frenetic and seemingly more ethnically diverse than the Kenyan capital, Mombasa takes a degree of pride in being different. The Swahili language predominates, as does a more relaxed coastal manner. Business visitors and tourists alike soon sense that here is a place that enjoys its languor and feels that it has little need to prove itself. Upon arrival one soon discovers that the traffic management system (if one exists) is chaotic and many of the buildings appear shabby and neglected. As in many cities in East Africa appearances can be deceptive, a spirit of commerce abounds and there is ample evidence of some substantial investments being made across a variety of sectors, a good example being English Point Marina (http://www.englishpointmarina.com). Mombasa is increasingly becoming an industrial city, one that is eager to capitalise on East Africa’s projected oil boom. Mombasans seem at ease and genial as befits their tropical coastal climate. They are proud to live in a city relatively free of the periodic violence and the sprawling shanty towns that blight Nairobi. That said, the city has its own challenges, street crime does exist, often fuelled by the scourge of youth unemployment, in addition it has its own secessionist movement in its midst in the form of the Mombasa Republican Council. Kenya’s distinctly patchy record when it comes to serious and sustained investment in the regions does not exactly inspire confidence. That said, Mombasa knows that if it is to continue to prosper and enjoy a degree of local autonomy it needs a thriving and efficient port, something that will go a significant way to helping stimulate and drive local as well as national economic development.
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