The government is set to embark on dredging of the refurbished Kisumu Port and Lake Victoria as the quest to revive maritime trade in the region gains momentum.
The exercise which was launched in January last year failed to take off even after the government leased a 70-metre long 4,000 tonne dredger from a Chinese company operating in Uganda to undertake the works.
Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga on Monday announced that the process is back on course and will kick off soon once the contractor is on site.
Raila disclosed that President Uhuru Kenyatta has directed the Kenya Navy to oversee the implementation of the project expressing optimism that the work shall be completed soon ahead of the planned reopening of the port.
Addressing the media at the New Nyanza Regional Headquarters Building in Kisumu, Raila disclosed that besides dredging the port and piers along the lake, the Mbita causeway in Homa Bay will be opened to allow the gulf of the lake to breathe.
The contractor according to the original design is expected to dredge a stretch of 61.3 kilometers starting from the pier in Kisumu and going all the way to Mbita.
The exercise is set to enhance the depth to 1.6 square meters around the Kisumu pier and further upgrade the Mbita pier to six meters deeper and 80 meters wide.
Dredging the port is expected to improve its capability to berth huge vessels, which will in turn help Kisumu grow into East Africa’s economic hub.
This will be a major boost in the quest to revive maritime trade and improve cargo exports through the lake, effectively removing over-reliance on road transport.
Raila who is also the African Union’s Special Envoy for Infrastructure said the government was on course in developing the necessary infrastructure to revive operations at the Kisumu Port.
He pointed out the ongoing refurbishment of Nakuru-Kisumu meter gauge railway line which once completed will be linked to the Standard Gauge Railway in Naivasha to facilitate transportation of cargo from Mombasa to Kisumu Port.
The meter gauge railway line from Kisumu to Butere, he added, is also earmarked for refurbishment to move goods and people from Kisumu.
“The revival of development projects in Kisumu which we started with His Excellency President Uhuru Kenyatta will open up this region to investors and development,” he said.
He said Kisumu which is set to host the 2021 Afri-Cities Conference, he said has lagged behind in development due to neglect by past regimes adding that the renewed efforts to revive the city will turn it into a regional business hub.
During the conference, he said, Kisumu will be home to over 8,000 delegates from around the world adding that there was need to put proper mechanisms in place to host them.
“I have come here today with investors and we have had fruitful discussions to see how they can come in to make this conference a success,” he said.
By Chris Mahandara