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15 Jul, 2015

Chinese-built Lamu port on course to transform Kenya, E. Africa

NAIROBI, July 12, (Xinhua) — Sam Mwabili has achieved a monumental feat that is the envy of his peers since he joined China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) Group in June to build the first three berths of Lamu port, initial part of a mega project connecting eastern and central African region.

The assistant engineer’s job involves supervising drivers and technicians operating earth-movers that are excavating soil to raise the ground at the Lamu port’s initial berth. “The construction of the first berth has gone over drive. Chinese technicians have taught us how to operate state of the art machines,” Mwabili told Xinhua.

The port on Lamu Island is part of the 24-billion-U.S.-dollar Lamu Port Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET) corridor project expected to be Kenya’s second transport corridor, boosting the economic development and regional integration in the East African region and beyond.

The Lamu port deal was signed by the Kenya Ports Authority and China Communications Construction Company in 2014, and is expected to be completed in three years during which the government will be preparing a business plan for how private investors can be involved. According to the master plan, Lamu port will comprise 32 berths when the whole corridor is completed in 2030.

LAPSSET project also include other infrastructure components such as roads, railway, airports, oil refineries and pipeline. It is expected to be another regional traffic artery, giving full play to the role of the port’s economic radiation.

“We are rewarded with heft bonuses based on good performance. Chinese firms have motivated hardworking Kenyans through better remuneration and adherence to globally acceptable labor practices, ” said Mwabili.

Actually Mwabili’s opportunity came more than once. He worked at the Standard Gauge Railway project constructed by China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) in 2014 on the Kenyan coast. The Chinese company has employed some 12,000 Kenyan staff and the number is expected to reach 30,000 as the project proceeds.

His brief stint at the Chinese company was an eye opener; it not only improved his technical skills, but also exposed him to different world views.

“The project has provided a training ground for Kenyans from all professional disciplines. As technicians, we are grateful for the opportunity to acquire new skills that will be applicable even after the project is completed,” Mwabili told Xinhua.

The CRBC launched a training center in June for local employees with curriculum on railway construction, operation and management. The first phase of the training program will take three months and is expected to cover more than 200 Kenyan engineers, technicians and artisans.

The construction of Lamu port has not jeopardized ecological sanctity of the town, whose ancient Swahili architecture is an UN- listed World Heritage site popular with celebrities, said Galgalo Rashid Abdi, the Principal Curator of Lamu Museums and World Heritage Site.

“We had trade flourishing from the far east, all over the world, to Lamu. We want to regain that glory. Now that LAPSSET is coming back. Actually ,it is a confirmation that the choice that was made by our ancient sailors is still valid,” he said.

Mwabili said that sensitive habitats have remained intact as more than 100 palm and other types of trees were untouched when workers started building camps where they will live for the project. He added that workers at the Lamu port have been involved in environmental conservation projects.

According to him, when the port is done, Lamu will not only become a cultural hub on the coast, but also start the course of industrialization.