The government’s position on the privatisation of Mombasa Port remains uncertain, with President William Ruto’s recent comments adding to the confusion surrounding this issue.

Speaking in Mombasa last week, President Ruto conveyed a mixed message, asserting that the port would not be privatised while stressing the need for new investments to improve revenue and operational efficiency.

“You see how our issues have gone wrong? Almost last! Because it has no efficiency. We want it to be top 10.”

“That is why I am looking for investors. My assurance is the port of Mombasa will never be privatised,” Dr Ruto said.

The President’s remarks were in reference to the global Container Port Performance Index’s third edition, which ranked Mombasa Port at a disappointing 326th position out of 348 ports worldwide in 2022, lagging behind its regional counterparts in eastern Africa.

Despite President Ruto’s unequivocal stance against port privatisation, there have been indications of the government’s inclination towards this direction.

The Kenya Port Authority (KPA) recently issued an open invitation to potential stakeholders, expressing interest in leasing a portion of the port’s infrastructure through a public-private partnership.

Notably, this is the second time in less than two months that Dr Ruto has reiterated his opposition to port privatisation, despite opposition from political leaders in Mombasa regarding the impending plans.

KPA allocated four days last month for prospective bidders to conduct site visits, encompassing the Lamu container terminal berths 1 to 3, Lamu Special Economic Zone, Mombasa Port berths 11-14, and Mombasa Port container terminal 1, all slated for privatisation.

Comparatively, Tanzania has taken a definitive step towards privatization by engaging the services of DP World, a well-known Dubai-based conglomerate, to oversee its Dar es Salaam port for an extended 30-year period.

DP World has secured an agreement to lease four berths out of a total of twelve in Dar es Salaam’s Port

Analysts assert that both nations are striving to enhance the operational efficiency of their maritime assets, a goal they believe can only be achieved through the involvement of private entities.