South Sudan and Kenya’s Ports

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?


12 thoughts on “South Sudan and Kenya’s Ports

  1. Africa actually needs infrastructure. This is conveniently overlooked by a “humanitarian aid” obsessed West (because humanitarian aid leads to cheap photo ops). But the fact still remains – for Africa to be competitive it needs infrastructure.

    The port project (if it takes off) and the massive Ethiopian hydro-power scheme will do a lot of good for the next generation of East Africans. The concerns of environmentalists should be listened to, but these concerns should not be allowed to derail or delay these extremely important projects.

    Finally, thank God for the Chinese.

  2. SUDDENLY,  I believe the future of East Africa is bright.

    1. I concur with the view Mr Maduka’s view: give  me infrastructure over food aid and, yes, God bless the Chinese! and the Turkish, too. 

    Though we are grateful for the billions of food aid given to strive-prone East Africa over the years, the fact of the matter is there is very little to show of it. However, tangible infrastructure is something else. For example, the Chinese built the long tarmac road linking the southern tip of Somalia with the north in the 60’s. It is the only lifeline left standing in Somalia today!

    2. Add to the fray, the less known second tier, western company risk takers who are hungry enough and brave enough to develop the resources of strive-prone East Africa,  particularly OIL!
     May Allah reward them for their bravery!

    3. Think of the resourcefulness of the East African Diaspora in the West ( Somalis alone account over 300,000!)

    4. Plus the expected productions of over Ethiopia’s Electric Power Corporation (EEPCO)  to generate up to to 10,000MW within the next 10 years

    5.And, of course, the LAMU port expansion and Kenya’s offshore oil exploration, as long as they don’t steal our portion of the off-Shore oil blocks ( thanks for boots on the ground but stay clear of the unresolved oil block bordering both nations)

    6.And, lest I forget, the  possibility of mutual Ethio-Somali trade ( somali multi-ports for landlocked Ethiopia to export gas. Win win for all)

    7. YES!  I can clearly see the light at the end of the tunnel for our long-suffering East African region. It just lacks one major ingredient: leaders with vision!

    • I’m going to make a prediction for something that will happen in twenty years time. I predict that China will be far less popular. I usually don’t make predictions for things that will happen decades from now but the hype about China compared to little things like openly (and illegally) supplying weapons to the Sudanese government for fighting in South Sudan and Darfur convince me that China will do something very foolish and the backlash will be intense.

      • Gyre,

        You echo the same sentiments as many if not most Western analysts about the presence of the Chinese in Africa. These sentiments are driven by (a) a visceral dislike of the Chinese (b) the realisation that fifty years of Western engagement with Africa has been an abject failure – the most recent being the “structural adjustment programs” of the eighties and (c) an almost maniacal desire to see the Chinese fail.

        I need to tell you a few things. Firstly, the Chinese are not in a popularity contest here, they have no Bono, Geldof, Lady Gaga and Madonna. They are here for business, and a lot of the business is mutually beneficial (I’ll also admit that some isn’t).

        Secondly, there is a lot more to Africa than South Sudan. The South Sudanese and Darfurians can chase the Chinese out and commit wholesale massacres, but these events will have negligible impact on the situation in Ghana (they are building the Bui dam there) or Nigeria (where they are engaged in businesses ranging from cement plants, to telecommunications, to agric-based industries, to motor vehicle assembly) or even Angola.

        Thirdly, the Chinese offer something that the West hasn’t offered for at least thirty years – financing for infrastructure leading to economic growth. Consider thirty years of engagement with the IMF, World Bank and Western NGOs – how much positive economic growth has it led to? (The structural adjustment programs decimated the Nigerian Middle Class – I know this first hand, not by reading textbooks).

        I look forward to a facts driven response to my post (not speculation, not guess work, not prejudice driven).

      • Granted, there is nasty and ( un) civil war in the Sudan and the Chinese are not saints. But we in Africa have long memories. We vividly remember most of the root causes of today’s bloody (un) civil wars are mainly as a result of one of the big powers supplying arms to their Strong Man as long as he is their bastard. They could have nipped those wars  in the bud by confronting their big, nasty, strong men the way the world is confronting, say, KONY. We look at the Chinese with fondness as well as  Erdogan’s Turkey.   

        Look, for instance, the Somali saga. We had 16 internationally-held conferences, the latest being held in London. All , sadly, failed to find the correct recipe to the problem. Many opportunities were lost in the past.

        ENTER Turkey. They are talking the talk and walking the walk. Everybody, including me, believe Mogadishu is the black hole of Somalia, unlike, say, peaceful Hargeisa and Garowe. But that moniker is not stopping Turkey to do the right thing.

        Just see this little unnoticed news item:

        ( A solid waste treatment facility and a concrete facility will be constructed in Mogadishu within the scope of a project to reconstruct the capital city.

        “People got sick and face various health problems due to 700 tons of garbage that is kept outside camps,” Mintez Simsek, a Turkish Red Crescent member, told AA correspondent.

        Simsek said Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality and Turkish Red Crescent would collect 700 tons of garbage every day, and sent them to solid waste treatment facility.

        Around 67 vehicles, work machines and solid waste treatment equipment would be brought to Somalia within a month, Simsek said.)

        I rest my case. Allah safe Turkey AND the Chinese, too. 

      • Turkey was only able to do those things because of a somewhat improved security situation. Absent that Turkey would have been just as helpless as the U.N. was twenty years ago.

        Also neither is really looking at my main point. China is becoming a great power. Great powers behave in certain fashions. This behavior tends to create certain responses from different groups. That is why I am willing to make this prediction.

      • Gyre,

        Why is Turkey there and everyone else is absent?

        You haven’t said anything new. Great, China is a great power. Great, great powers behave is certain ways – so what?

        Implicit in your assumption is that (a) Africa hasn’t changed a bit and (b) Africans are mindless drones, lacking agency, with no input whatsoever in their future.

        I deal with your types everyday, I know the way people like you think.

      • In re. to Maduka: the sheer amount of prejudice in that phrase… When did I ever suggest that Africans were ‘mindless drones’? Please show me that exact sentence. I stated that groups behave in certain ways. That because they do. This has been shown for millennia. It doesn’t matter if it’s South Asia or South America or North America or Australia or whatever the region might be.

        Groups will tend to behave in certain ways because of certain environmental factors. When violence in a place (not necessarily nations but nations are the most common so we’ll go with those) that is from one cultural group (ethnic) aimed at another the elites of those groups will tend to split apart, decreasing the power of the state and encouraging the people of those groups to either attempt to dominate the state or separate from it depending on their history. Lebanon and Iraq are excellent examples of this. Syria might be another.
        When violence is from a low-class group aimed specifically at elites of all ethnic groups (and it is prevalent enough to threaten them in the cities) the elites will tend to unite and demand that the power of the state be increased to protect them. Look at Singapore and Japan.
        When a state declares war on your state you will tend to see an upswing in patriotism and the amount of power that the elites and lower classes will give to the state (of course this will dissipate if the war goes badly and propaganda does counter it). The U.S is in 1941 is a good example of this as is the U.S in 2001*.
        Yes, these examples are mostly on war and violence, but that’s simply because I have no interest in exploring every single point of state to state interactions. The same should still hold true on marriage, crime, religion etc.

        Now for the case of China. China, which is arguably a great power if not a super power, will want certain things from Africa. Energy supplies, food supplies, military deals, opportunities for Chinese businesses etc. Because of this, China will eventually be forced to take sides, even if it does not realize it is, by the simple fact of having a presence. When China does not intrude greatly, as in Pakistan (at least relative to the U.S), China will not experience great backlash.
        When China does greatly involve itself, such as selling weapons and vehicles to the Sudanese government in hopes that it could crush the South Sudanese independence movement or supporting Qaddafi’s Libyan government in the U.N (and preparing to sell him weapons last year) it will face backlash. The new Libyan government has not shown much fondness for China and South Sudanese I have spoken with were surprisingly anti-Chinese**.

        Therefore I stand by my point. China will probably act similarly to the U.S, it will earn the enmity of some groups, the friendship of others and it will probably end up with some African states friendly and others enemies. Of course this presumes that China will be able to maintain its current involvement or increase it. If China can’t for some reason (military defeat or economic weakness) it will have far less ability to involve itself in Africa and so will have far less risk of backlash. As for the possibility that China has figured out the secret of international relations, if that were true then China would have long ago settled its South/East/Southeast Asian disputes***. Because China has clearly not done so I feel safe in my argument that China is simply another great power.

        Turkey is there for simple reasons. To boost Turkey’s position in the world, attempt to improve the situation in Somalia and further the current Turkish government’s ideology. Did I ever state that any of that was a bad thing? I stated that Turkey could not have done it if security had not improved slightly. That just means that Turkey was the right state at the right time.

        *Of course the terrorist attack was not a traditional declaration of war from a state but it fits the theme as a sudden attack from a foreign source.
        ** Admittedly these were South Sudanese students who had chosen to live in the U.S. but they didn’t show those kind of opinions about Russia or other nations that you might expect young men with opinions shaped to the American rightwing to have.
        *** Which occurred even as the U.S was not focusing on Tibet and the South China Sea so it can’t simply be the U.S ‘urging’ nations on (which would suggest the assumption that those nations are ‘mindless drones’).

      • You implied it, because your commentary does not take into account the complexity of Africa or even the agency of Africans.

        Your comments suggest that nothing has been learned at the community level in the Niger Delta about how to fight large corporations that trample on environmental rights. That a more democratic Africa will be mirror image of the Africa of the sixties. That South Sudan (a nation with about the worst human capital indices in the World) is a mirror image of Ghana.

        The future of Chinese involvement in Africa can be seen by observing the role the Chinese are playing in integrating South East Asia and the leeway the South East Asians have granted the Chinese.

        Africa is even further away from China than South East Asia and contrary to conventional wisdom in certain circles in the West, they will find it a lot more difficult to impose their will on Africans. (After all, they are only a few decades away from a major competition with the Indians).

        My point is not whether the Chinese will want to act in a similar fashion to the Americans. My point is whether they will be allowed to through out Africa. Michael Sata’s election victory in Zambia suggests may be not.

  3. Amusingly here’s this article from the BBC with the insightful description ‘Deep in the Sahara Desert a rebellion is underway – almost unnoticed outside Africa.’

    Funny, it seems to me that it’s gotten much more notice over the past year or so than the continued fighting in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or the ever present tensions in Western Sahara or recent fighting in Chad.

  4. Gyre, granted security improved somewhat in Mogadishu. However, I credit this increased Turkish involvement in war-torn Somalia as well as more than 53 other African states is because of the new breed of visionary Turkish leaders ( as long as they don’t assume that Somalia is only Mogadishu.)

    And, yes, we’re not talking the past twenty years only but the last three months.

    Harvard-educated Somali PM is in better position to evaluate

     Turkey, the PM said, ” has done more in three months than the UN did in five years. UN officials told us that $1.2 billion was transferred to Somalia. We do not know where this money went. There was no hospital or school built or investment in infrastructure made. Only Turks have done all this in a short period of time.”

  5. Pingback: South Sudan and Kenya's Ports | Sahel Blog | South Sudan Chamber of Commerce

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