Work on the Lamu Port and Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor has officially started with the foundation stones being laid last Friday by Kenya’s president Kibaki, prime minister Odinga, South Sudan’s president Salva Kiir and Ethiopia’s prime minister Meles Zenawi. Lamu is to be built into a major port, and an oil pipeline, railway and motorway are to be built from Lamu through Isiolo in Kenya to Juba in South Sudan, with similar links to Ethiopia branching off at Isiolo.
The projects currently have an ambitious completion timeline of four years. According to the plans, the port of Lamu is to be five times larger than Kenya’s current major port, Mombasa, with room to dock 32 ships concurrently. Oil reaching the port via the pipelines from South Sudan and Ethiopia will be refined at a new refinery to be built at Lamu. The total cost of the projects is currently estimated at $23 billion.
The oil pipeline is particularly vital for South Sudan, given that oil is that country’s major source of income and that exports through Sudan are not currently viable because of hostilities between South Sudan and Sudan. The oil pipeline is also important for Ethiopia, which is another landlocked country, because of the country’s need to reduce its current dependence on Djibouti as its only route to the sea.