Kenya will launch the $30 million Kisumu Port next week following the completion of an upgrade that has been going on at the facility since 2016, a move aimed at enhancing trade between Kenya and the Great Lakes Regions.
The official launch, which will coincide with the commissioning of the revamped Naivasha-Kisumu railway line, will play a critical role in feeding cargo to the Kisumu Port for onward transportation to Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania.
According to Kenya Ports Authority (KPA), the Kisumu facility operates only at a fraction of its capacity and previous throughput. Due to the deterioration of the rail connection from Mombasa to Kisumu, transit cargo volumes have decreased steeply over the last decades.
The port still handles some of the local cargo and specific transit cargo. However, all freight volumes have dwindled, due to a lack of critical mass and the reliability of the transport system.
The Kisumu port occupies 17.5 hectares of land with a stacking area designed to accommodate a throughput of 15,000 TEUs per annum.
For decades the port of Kisumu registered strong business activity helped by a reliable railway system and maritime vessels that ferried cargo to ports such as Mwanza and Bukoba in Tanzania as well as Jinja and Port Bell in Uganda.
Kisumu has some of the best port equipment in East and Central Africa but slow activity in lake transport has left them idle.
The lakeside city is a critical hub for trade with Tanzania and Uganda as well as Rwanda and Burundi including other countries in the Great Lakes region because of Lake Victoria that passes through these countries.
Kenya Railways has refurbished the MV Uhuru, a vessel that will be used for transportation of goods between the Kisumu Port and Uganda harbour of Port Bell.
The refurbished Port of Kisumu handled 62 per cent more cargo in 2019 due to improved efficiency and a surge in trade, according to data from Kenya National Bureau of Statistics.
The volume of cargo handled at the revamped facility went up to 17,735 tonnes in 2019, a 62 per cent increase compared with 2018.
With a projection of a strong economic growth in the region, Kisumu’s local cargo imports are estimated to increase to approximately 130,000 tonnes by 2025, and further to 180,000 tons by 2035.
Consequently, under this scenario, total estimated local cargo demand at Kisumu Port increases to approximately 290,000 tons by 2025, and further to approximately 410,000 tons by 2035.