Not for the first time a landlocked country in Africa is attempting to have a say in a remote port operation which functions as a major gateway for its import and export trade. This time it is Uganda proposing that it has a say in the management of Kenya’s major port, the port of Mombasa. In the recent past it was Ethiopia attempting to secure a dedicated terminal in Djibouti.
The Ugandan initiative surfaced at a recent ‘Validation Workshop on Uganda’s Position on the Single Customs Territory for the East African Community. The Permanent Secretary Ministry of EAC Affairs, Edith Mwanje said that Uganda should have a say in the management of gateway ports because of “the many delays that negatively impacted trade”. Ugandan cargo accounts for the largest body of traffic handled by the port of Mombasa for the landlocked countries surrounding Kenya.
It is unlikely, of course, that any country will give up even partial control of a national asset to another country. It is akin to relinquishing sovereignty in the minds of countries owning port assets and being asked to participate in some form of power sharing. Djibouti fought hard to prevent Ethiopian Shipping Lines gaining control of dedicated terminal assets in the old port of Djibouti and won this battle. It is very unlikely that Kenya will even consider the idea of a foreign power participating in the management of its number one port.
It may, however, be a wise course of action for countries such as Djibouti and Kenya to consider establishing some sort of regular stakeholder dialogue. This is the path to a long and sustainable relationship as opposed to a short opportunistic one.
It is known, for example, that in the past Ethiopia has been frustrated by the high price of gateway container and general cargo operations in Djibouti and this has led to tensions. Since these days, however, Djibouti has put considerable effort into having a sensible dialogue with Ethiopia and this has matured into new projects such as the signing of an agreement with Ethiopia and Djibouti to build an oil pipeline that will reduce South Sudan’s dependence on crude shipments via neighbouring Sudan, and plans for a $2.6bn liquefied natural gas terminal in Djibouti, including a liquefaction plant and a pipeline, that will enable the export of 10m cubic meters of gas from Ethiopia to China annually from 2016.
Source and Picture credit: Portstrategy.com
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