When President Uhuru Kenyatta launched the Mombasa Shipyard in December of last year, Kenya entered the league of shipbuilding nations. The new shipyard has a vessel handling capacity of 4,000 tonnes and will provide jobs for over 10,000 Kenyans.
The shipyard represents the kind of transformation projects that will enable Kenya to achieve its ambition to be an industrial economy. It’s the kind of large-scale investment in infrastructure needed to start the next wave of economic growth and transformation.
Above all, the project will advance the country’s industrial and maritime agenda. Describing it as the “foundation of the blue economy”, the president underlined its importance to the country’s growing maritime sector, currently valued at over Ksh400 billion, or around 4 percent of GDP.
The project is also a major boost for the national industrialization strategy Vision 2030. The transformative impact of the shipyard going forward will be felt in five main ways.
First, the massive economic benefits, including the creation of thousands of jobs, directly through the labor employed on site to carry out shipbuilding and repair, and indirectly through the vast supply chain. maritime transport. This includes skilled jobs like marine engineering services.
The other spin-offs are port services, financial and legal services related to maritime transport, offshore industries, maritime transport, fishing, tourism and water sports. All these activities will generate income for the country in the form of taxes to finance development.
Second, Kenya’s nascent blue economy will require adequate infrastructure to support a maritime economy. The new shipyard will be integrated with mining and sea fishing activities; construction of offshore infrastructure and aquaculture facilities.
As a hub for shipbuilding and maintenance, Mtongwe Shipyard will not only design and build new ships, but also undertake specialized maritime services such as ship repair and refit. In addition, the transfer of skills through maritime training programs will allow the country to move quickly to the blue economy.
Third, the shipyard is a critical infrastructure meeting the transport and security needs of the country. For example, Kenyan Navy ships are currently being re-equipped in places like Spain and the Netherlands. But with the new facility, the country will save around Ksh 6.8 billion spent on servicing its marine equipment overseas, while developing local expertise in vessel maintenance.
Already, many young Kenyans have undergone specialized welding training and other high value-added activities. For the blue economy to thrive, Kenya needs to develop technical expertise in marine engineering.
In advanced economies like the United States, shipyards have three interrelated goals: commercial, security, and scientific. Private shippers use the facility to maintain their vessels, thereby promoting trade. Being based at the Kenya Naval Base in Mtongwe, the Mombasa Shipyard performs a crucial naval function in addition to potentially supporting future ocean scientific research.
Fourth, the multi-agency approach behind the shipyard involving, among others, the Kenya Defense Force, the Kenya Coast Guard Service, the Kenya Railways and the National Youth Service, is a classic example. of how various state agencies can work transparently to deliver critical national infrastructure in a timely manner. , in a cost-effective and transparent manner.
Kenya Shipyards Limited (KSL) established by decree in 2018 will play a facilitating role in promoting trade, industry and defense in the country’s maritime domain. The East African coastline has only four shipyards located in Egypt, Djibouti and South Africa. Through KSL, Kenya is positioned to become the new center for shipbuilding in Africa serving public and private, national and regional clients.
Fifth, the Mombasa shipyard will transform the coastal economy by opening up the region to new investment. Key sub-sectors of the blue economy such as fisheries which employ large numbers of people will benefit. Private shipyards charge millions of shillings for repairing ships. The state’s move to Mtongwe will help reduce maintenance costs and encourage more local entrepreneurs to venture into the fishing industry.
It will also unlock the enormous commercial potential of Kenya’s territorial waters and coastal strip. Providing livelihoods and business opportunities to the inhabitants of the coastal region is essential for fighting poverty and by extension countering violent extremism which has been a major challenge fueling insecurity in the region.
In short, the long term economic impact of the Mombasa Shipyard far exceeds its primary function of building and repairing ships and will be felt for many years as an infrastructure project inherited from President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Mr. Murumba is the CEO of Impulso Kenya Limited. Email: [email protected]