The Kenya National Highways Authority (Kenha) recently signed contracts for the construction of the road linking Kenya to South Sudan. The planned Sh31.2 billion upgrade of a key link road is set to begin raising prospects of enhanced cross-border trade. The stretch runs from Loichangamatak to Lodwar, Nadapal, and Nakodok which has been impassable.
The road’s construction, funded jointly by the World Bank and the government, is expected to be complete in three years.
“This component is an important link along the Biharambo–Mwanza- Musoma-Sirari-Isebania-Kitale–Lodwar –Lokichogio-Nakodok-Juba Transport Corridor of the East African Community’s regional trunk road network,” said Kenha director-general Peter Mundinia. Kenya’s main transport artery has traditionally been the Northern Corridor, running from Mombasa through Nairobi to the border with Uganda at Malaba.
The upgrade of the road will come as a boost for traders who use it for South Sudan’s export and imports. Its deplorable state has hindered the movement of cargo. South Sudan is the second biggest transit market after Uganda.
The road has been identified as an important catalyst for the integration of South Sudan into the regional economy and as an important link in the international road connection between Kenya and its neighbours.
“Upgrading of the East Africa Regional Transport, Trade and Development Facilitation Project well known as the South Sudan Link Development Corridor, will transform lives and improve the movement of goods and people along Lokichar-Nadapal/Nakodok part of the Eldoret-Nadapal/Nakodok road in the north western part of Kenya in particular and to enhance connectivity between Kenya and her neighbouring countries,” said KENHA earlier.
Since South Sudan became an independent state, it has increasingly increased the volumes of the goods traded between is and Kenya. The delay in constructing the road, which is critical for the enhancement of trade between the country and her landlocked northern neighbour, has limited the potential of enhancing business between the two countries.
Most of the South Sudan bound cargo generated at the port of Mombasa is transported through Uganda since Kitale-Juba road in its current state is impassible with high cases of insecurity.
Ideally, it would be easy to use the Kitale route which would reduce the border crossing to one and also reduce the distance to Juba by about 400 kilometres. Crossing the two border points causes serious delays, affecting the truck overall turnaround.
Uganda constructed a road connecting Kampala, Gulu in the North of Uganda and Juba. This has made Uganda a huge trading partner with Southern Sudan especially on vegetables and other food stuffs from Uganda. Also, Kenyans intending to travel to Juba have to pass through Kampala to get to South Sudan.
Kenya’s main transport artery has traditionally been the Northern Corridor highway running from Mombasa through Nairobi to the border with Uganda at Tororo.
“The road will provide a direct access to the port of Mombasa for South Sudan’s export/imports without transiting into another country and its improvement will promote and facilitate regional economic integration between the two countries,” the KeNHA boss said.
An inter-ministerial secretariat that is spearheading second transport corridor, LAPPSET, estimates that the entry of Southern Sudan into the regional economies would see the unrestricted demand of cargo rising upwards of 32 million tonnes per annum.
Southern Sudan relies on Port Sudan in the Northern Sudan and based on the history of the two countries, South Sudan would welcome an alternative, which ideally is Kenya.
Lamu port would, however, provide the best bet. The distance between Juba and Port Sudan is about 4,000 Kilometres while the distance between Juba and Lamu is only 1,500 Kms.
The full cost of the road construction from Eldoret to Sudan border is an estimated $1.2 million and is set for completion in early 2019.
Connecting these countries using traditional and digital infrastructure has the potential to facilitate growth in both physical and digital assets across the two countries and beyond.