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How the New Port is Changing Lamu MSMEs Market

An old town made of classical buildings with chalky limestone walls, a once dull town is awakening with major economic activities buzzing here and there not like before. Thanks to the New Port of Lamu.

As you walk along the narrow streets of the ancient town, faces of locals pushing up and down to run their businesses meets you. Early in the morning, long queues of men and women can be seen going to work ( at the port ) jovial to meet their daily wages.

Initially people used to move using donkeys, but the state had to change when the port began to be constructed a few years ago. It’s not unusual to see motorbikes moving up and down busy, ferrying people.

The new port has opened up more avenues for businesses, long queues of trucks just like in the port of Mombasa has been witnessed growing slowly at the terminals. Men and women vending food have been witnessed hawking food to some of the workers at the port. When you visit Lamu today and some previous months, you’ll feel the increase in circulation of money.

The port which was unveiled last month by president Uhuru Kenyatta has been receiving ships from abroad with a number of workers being employed to help run the daily routines.

There are tug-boats, berths, container terminals, customs, trucks, railways; docking workers, ship captains, engineers, tax collectors, bankers, traders… all sorts, who can be witnessed running up and down busy to kick the economy of Lamu higher.

With the construction of the port, over 4,700 fishermen had been denied their fishing rights of which the government guaranteed them a compensation of a sum close to Sh 1.76 billion. This was to enable them start over with other businesses in the old town, something that has been witnessed to be ongoing.

According to some of the locals the new port despite coming as a disaster to some of their old ways of living, it has enabled them to connect with the rest of the world to some level.

Along the streets of Lamu, today, you can meet more than two or three tourist with every five step all coming to enjoy the active economy. The town which the president assured locals would have tremendous development has had so many changes since the port was opened.

Lamu Port, which will set off a flurry of economic activities, is part of a Sh 2.7 trillion Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia-Transport (LAPSSET) corridor that includes roads, rail, industrial park and airports.

According to the standard newspaper, LAPSSET, critics fear, might be the coup de Grace for the island’s 700-year cultural heritage. For the seven centuries that people have settled on Lamu Old Town, it has resisted all kinds of ‘foreign’ incursions, retaining its heritage as East Africa’s beacon of Islamic and Swahili culture.

Instead, the island’s culture and architecture have gracefully been shaped by the best of Arabic, Bantu, European and Indian influences.

Listed as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) for being the oldest and best-preserved Swahili settlement in East Africa, Lamu Old Town has not been ensnared by the allure of modernism.

The construction of the port and cruise ship berth, according to UNESCO, is one of the threats to Lamu’s cultural heritage.

Since the town is expected to receive very many visitors from within and outside the region, many locals fear the county government might be forced to temper with their cultural heritage. Some of their ancient architectural designs might be tempered to suit the modern designs.

The new Lamu industrial city which is part of the LAPSSET project by the government has raised fears among the locals.

Questions are: which one will stand over another, the historical wealth of the town or the ultra modern Lamu industrial city!? Just a few days since it’s inception, yet the town has had to go through a lot.

A small town that had only small shops is expected to have not more than two malls, as the business begins to pick. Many investors already banking on hot spots to enrich their tentacles their.

The first bank to land in Lamu was Standard Chartered Bank, which has since exited. But over time, there has been an influx of other banks as economic activities have picked up. KCB, Equity, Diamond Trust, ABC and Gulf banks are all there. The taxman is also lying in wait.

All the way from the rich culture, to the economic and infrastructural developments. The town is expected to grow at an exponential state.

As the collision between the old town values and the changes continue to expand. Things still remain that the economic state of Lamu is going to pick faster and rapidly. Considering the load in the port of Mombasa which is the biggest, most of the ships are now expected to be redirected to Lamu an advantage to make it grow.

It would be a better time for MSMEs and more to come on board the LAPSSET train and be supportive of this corridor. The rise of Cottage industries in the region will largely play a role in the coming days. So what will your input be in this space?

Mombasa, Kenya

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