Having South Sudan as its new neighbor has given a boost to Kenya’s ports. South Sudan, Kenya, and Ethiopia recently launched a $23 billion port and oil refinery project at Lamu, which “South Sudan plans to use…as its main oil export outlet.” Meanwhile, in Mombasa, “South Sudan nearly doubled shipment volumes through Kenya’s main port last year, helping the port achieve a greater-than-expected 5 percent increase in cargo volumes despite heavy congestion and slow cargo clearance.”
Amid the celebrations, there are voices of doubt, especially regarding Lamu. Business Daily worries about the impact on regional development, writing that unless leaders prioritize the revival of manufacturing in the region, “Lamu port will just be another route for dumping products into our markets once Sudanese oil runs out.” Think Africa Press cites the potentially negative impact of the Lamu project on the local environment and on local communities. Local groups and conservationists are already mobilizing against the project.
Lamu, and Kenyan-South Sudanese ties on the whole, fit with a broader trend toward regional integration in East Africa – a trend which many of the region’s leaders support. The question is, as always, who will benefit, and who will lose out?