Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It’s a pleasure to join you, and to launch this important and, indeed, transformative project.
We have spoken, often, of the transformation that high-quality public infrastructure investment can bring in the lives of our people. It grows our economy; it generates jobs; and it builds skills which our young men and women need to prosper.
The container depot we are launching today is one such investment. It follows in the tracks of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), which it will serve. The SGR itself was completed on time, and in the few short months since I commissioned it, more than half a million Kenyans have taken the train.
Earlier this week in my Jamhuri Day Speech, I spoke of the “Big Four”: the agenda upon which the rest of my final term will focus on. We need decent and affordable housing for every Kenyan. We need quality and affordable healthcare for every Kenyan. We need nutritious and affordable food for every Kenyan. We need create jobs and therefore generate income for our people.
To create the desired jobs, we need to invest in industries that will grow our country’s manufacturing capacity from the current 9% to 15% of the Gross Domestic Product by 2022. This will go a long way in creating jobs for our sons and daughters and thereby afford them the opportunity to apply their talents.
We all know how important transport and infrastructure are to Kenyans, and how critical a foundation they provide for all our development programmes.
The point of all the investment we have made in transport, in logistics, and in infrastructure, Ladies and Gentlemen, is to grow our economy and to create rewarding jobs for Kenyans. And it ought to be obvious that transport and infrastructure are vital for every item of that Big Four.
We are lucky as a nation, because, thanks to the sustained effort by stakeholders in the transport sector over the years, Kenya has successfully built and maintained her status as a leading regional logistics hub.
I am pleased to note that the promises we made to Kenyans in 2013 in the transport sector, are being delivered. Without a doubt, as a country, we are well positioned to advance the transformation we started on regional connectivity in a professional, competitive way; and in alignment with international best practice.
Over the last four years, my Administration has invested heavily in the expansion of the country’s transport and infrastructure network. This we have been doing because, we know well enough the importance of reducing the cost of doing business, to the creation of new business and employment opportunities. The launch of the Madaraka Express in May this year has already had a positive impact on the tourism sector, boosting both foreign and domestic tourism.
Indeed, the development of this ultra-modern depot is a culmination of our concerted efforts to improve the movement and management of cargo across our country and into the wider East African region. This investment of 22 billion Kenya shillings has expanded the capacity of the depot.
The high speed, high capacity and efficient Standard Gauge Railway network will serve as an important link between the Port of Mombasa and the Inland Container Depot.
Cargo will not only move up and down the line to and from the port for export, it will also present opportunities for employment and wealth creation for our people across the various counties. This facility will be a centre of excellence.
We, therefore, expect a seamless clearance, evacuation, and movement of cargo that will enhance operations of the shippers, freight forwarders and other transport players in the sector.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In this context, I direct the Ministry of Transport, Infrastructure, Housing and Urban Development, to ensure, that the 22 agencies, which are members of the Mombasa Port Charter, meet their obligations in addressing all the logistical hurdles in order to realize the expectations of our private sector partners. Further, we must move with speed to ensure the requisite last mile connectivity and connection to major road arteries be well-coordinated, for fast evacuation and delivery of cargo into and out of the Depot.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Going forward, we expect the cargo handled by the Port of Mombasa to increase by 7.6 percent annually. Between 2012 and 2016, we recorded a 25 percent increase in cargo with tonnage increasing from 21.9 million tonnes to 27.4 million tonnes. This means that we must clear cargo faster and more efficiently.
The Standard Guage Railway will enable us to evacuate Nairobi-bound cargo directly from the port for clearance here at the Inland Container Depot, thus enabling the Port to handle more cargo.
To support our exporters, both local and regional, we will offer 50% discount for transporting goods from the Nairobi Inland Container Depot and the Port of Mombasa. Furthermore, the second phase of the SGR will be linked to the Depot, thus connecting Nairobi with the region via rail.
From a regional perspective, the SGR freight train will reduce the cost of doing business across the East African Region.
For instance, it currently costs $1,200 to ship a 20-tonne container from Japan to the Port of Mombasa. Yet it costs $2,500 to move a similar container to Kampala and as much as $4,500 to Kigali. With the SGR we can expect to cut costs significantly.
This is a critical anchor to the core priority of my Administration to build a stable, inclusive and sustainable socio-economic development.
In a market-led economy, we know the role of the Government is to build infrastructure and create an enabling environment for businesses to thrive. I, therefore, encourage the private sector to take on the challenge of unexploited opportunities so as to fully utilize these facilities; and exploit them to create jobs and wealth for our people.
As I close, let me assure you of my commitment to deliver on what my Administration has promised to do. But we cannot deliver on those commitments alone.
Accordingly, I wish to recognize and to thank our partners in this project, the People’s Republic of China, for their unwavering support.
We shall continue to build domestic and international partnerships and to seek opportunities to ensure that our investments yield the benefits we seek for Kenyans.
Thank you all, God bless you and God Bless Kenya.