atriotism, patience and strong faith define him. His venture in the logistics industry against many odds 20 years ago is strongly anchored on the three values. In an almost replica fashion of how he started a logistics firm that has today a regional presence, he ventured in Lamu 3 years ago to lay a foundation for business long before the port became operational.
In 2001 and after graduating with a master’s degree in Shipping Management from the World Maritime University, in Sweden, he had secured two well-paying job offers in both the UK and Dubai, which he declined in favour of jetting back to Kenya to start a logistics firm.
“Everybody could not fathom the idea that I was declining two job offers abroad to come back and start a company in an industry that was in a monumental struggle with many clearing agents exiting the scene. Even the government official who registered my company offered advice that I was losing cash in the name of the registration fee,” the chair and founder of Express Shipping & Logistics, Mr Silvester Kututa who also chairs Kenya Ship Agents Association (KSAA) and serves in many other global shipping bodies.
It is this zeal that has pushed Kututa, who was born in Kwale County, Kichaka Simba village 54 years ago, to establish a branch in Lamu, strongly believing that the port project, which he says has a bright future, will succeed in the coming years.
“When we saw the port of Lamu getting closer to completion, we posted a staff member there much ahead of time. Everybody did not understand why we did that and it then looked foolish,” he said.
Added he; “But please understand we are the market leaders in Mombasa handling about 10 percent of the cargo volumes and by implication and lack of choice, as market leader, we had to take responsibility and shoulder the cost that comes with leadership,” Kututa said.
One reason for doing this, according to him, was the fact that during the port’s construction and after, there would be many people going to Lamu to hear the dream about it and see and see the facility.
“They would be taken around by the port officials, but they will want to hear more opinions from other perspectives. One would wish to hear from a logistics service provider the vision and future of Lamu, which explains why we took that responsibility 3 years ago,” he said, adding that he knows it will take some time before profitable volumes trickle down.
This resilience is based on his own experience of formative years of ESL- which has taught him that logistics and infrastructural projects should be viewed from a long-term perspective if one wants to venture in the sector. It took him five years to have ESL get a headway and 7 years to make a breakthrough.
“It was a tough time for me. I kept on remembering about the job offers. But I felt I had a responsibility to create jobs for Kenyans in the logistics industry and hence why I soldiered on,” Kututa said.
The company, which has now grown sustainably, also faced the challenge of the cash flow once it started attracting enormous volumes since sometimes, he would be required to pay to clear cargo release, which he struggled to raise, and claim later from the clients.
With branches now in Mombasa, Nairobi, Tanzania and Uganda, the firm offers ships agency, logistics, customs clearance, ships brokerage and consultancy. It has in the recent past partnered with the government in piloting Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) Integrated Customs Management System (iCMS) and Single Window Maritime System, a ship clearing app and a joint initiative of Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) and KenTrade that was launched last month.
Kenya Ports Authority (KPA), according to Kututa, should fast track acquisition of modern Ships to Shore Gantry cranes to unlock the transshipment business of the Lamu port.
“A port needs SSG to operate efficiently in a modern terminal. We thank God they have deployed mobile cranes. They will help but when we get SSG, the machines will offer a tremendous boost to Lamu’s transshipment business,” Kututa said.
Lamu port depth will attract transshipment cargo for Tanzania, Mombasa, Somalia, Indian Ocean Islands of Comoros, Madagascar, Seychelles and South Africa, which is prone to on and off congestion, which makes Lamu port an attractive alternative, according to Kututa.
Completion of the roads and other infrastructure projects is just a matter of time since both Mombasa and Lamu are serving underdeveloped countries that will import huge materials, he added.
The future is dazzling if the corridor is extended beyond South Sudan and Ethiopia, according to Kututa, who said that it should also be extend extended to reach West Africa’s Douala–Lagos–Cotonou–Abidjan Corridor and run through Cameroon, Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, creating synergies for a mega-market for the port, he added.
Kenya hopes to ride on the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement launched early this year to secure business for the Lamu Port.
LAPSSET corridor will also open up the Northern part of Kenya. LAPSSET Corridor Development Plan has divided the Northern Eastern region into nine (9) growth areas; Lamu Growth area, Garissa-Bura growth area, Wajir growth area, Moyale growth area, Lokichogio growth area, Turkana growth area, Isiolo-Meru Archers Post growth area and the Mwingi growth area.
Each of the growth areas has an identified set of economic activities and investment opportunities that will spur economic growth of the area and the Northern Eastern region. This includes Isiolo-Meru area being a logistics centre along the corridor and a resort city; Moyale, Wajir and Garissa-Bura growth areas mainly for the setup of Export Processing zones for livestock and animal by-products. Directly related to the Port is the potential of Isiolo, Lokichogio and Moyale for the setup of Inland Container Depots, which may increase the transport efficiency, and facilitate cross-border trade with neighboring countries that will be linked firmly by the LAPSSET Corridor namely Southern Sudan and Ethiopia.
The LAPSSET corridor therefore can be visualized as a development corridor concept that can elevate a region to a certain level of development. This concept maximizes a strategy that identifies areas with inherent growth potential for concentrating investment to stimulate growth. It is expected that public sector resources will be sourced to develop physical and social infrastructure to facilitate investment. To achieve such accelerated integrated development, the government should ensure that an enabling business environment that fosters investment is provided for.