Mombasa business community has called on the national government to expedite Dongo Kundu Special Economic Zone (SEZ) projected to create millions of direct and indirect jobs, attract massive investors and spur economy.
Kenya Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), Mombasa chairman, Mustafa Ramadhan said the government should prioritize the Sh39.1 billion project to help address the current economic challenges.
Ramadhan noted that the SEZ project, would further cement Mombasa’s regional strategic commercial location besides addressing social and economic challenges grappling local population.
The SEZ developed on 3000 acres of land is expected to have key facilities including a free port, free trade zone, logistics zone, industrial park and mega road network.
“The project is capable of creating 100,000 jobs besides attracting massive regional and international investors to set up key industries,” added Ramadhan in an interview with KNA.
He said the opening of the mega trading facility would further enhance the position of Mombasa as regional commercial, logistic and shipping hub.
“Geographically, we are at an advantage. Mombasa is getting a lot of shipping calling our port. It makes a lot of sense for people to set up industries in Mombasa. We are connected by sea, rail and road to a lot of connection in Africa,” he added.
He however outlined some of the current issues which noted needed to be addressed in order for the country to fully exploit the SEZ project.
The KCCI Mombasa chapter boss noted that both the national and county governments needed to tackle issues deterring foreign and local investors attracted to Mombasa’s strategic locations.
He stated that there is need for review of utility bills and taxation to attract investors in Mombasa saying many of regional based industries have been tempted to move to the Coastal city only to be rebuffed by high cost of electricity and other tariffs.
“There has been a lot of progress especially in ease of doing business in Kenya. We are now within the top 50. That is a lot of improvement but there is a lot of work to be done, especially in streamlining of cargo handling and predictability of the tax regime. There is a strong case of bringing down corporate tax because there are high rates of compliance,” he observed.
He noted that there is need for review of freight levies and streamlining of cargo handling in order to improve efficiency in the logistic and shipping operations at the Mombasa Ports to attract more ships.
“One of the things we need to do is to revive Kenyan shipping lines. Ethiopia which has no port has fleets of ships, which we can easily attract. It is also important for our food security,” added Mustafa.
The KCCI boss further urged the national and county governments to relook into the value chain of the fishing industry with a view of addressing some of current thorny issues and unlock the sector’s huge potential of creating millions worth of jobs and bolster food security.
“There is a tuna migratory route off the Coast of Mombasa, moving between Somalia and Mozambique and with such opportunity we import fish from China,” Mustafa revealed.
He called for concerted efforts from all stakeholders towards addressing underlying issues that has led to mushrooming of many juvenile criminal groups in Mombasa.
According to him, the criminal groups have posed serious threats to business environment with the hospitality industry mostly affected.
“Insecurity is one of the aspects affecting the growth of our nation and specifically the growth of Mombasa County. The key to a successful business is a conducive working environment, an area that is free from attacks from local residents. Mombasa is well known for its good reception of both local and foreign tourists but lately due to insecurity setback tourist currently opt to visit the south coast instead,” he said.
Ramadhan further said as business community they have engaged security agencies, clergy and community elders in a bid to finding lasting solutions.
“We are figuring out how to help the youth and create employment opportunities to keep them busy and earn a living without necessarily engaging in criminal activities,” he added.
Mustafa promised for development of more skills set in order to prepare local youthful population to be ready to work in the much-anticipated SEZ which he notes has huge potential of creating massive skilled and unskilled job opportunities.
He also revealed that there have been interests among regional investors to venture in Mombasa since the operationalization and implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area treaty.
By Galgalo Bocha and Lynn Oloo