China explores transport potential of Africa’s largest fresh water
by Ronald Ssekandi ENTEBBE, Uganda, (Xinhua) -- On the shores
of Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest fresh water body, lies a ship,
the largest of its kind seen on any inland water body in East
Locals, old and young stand by the fence to see the massive ship
being built by Chinese to ply Lake Victoria, a lake shared by
Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, and by extension Rwanda and Burundi.
Chinese engineers working with local staff are putting final
touches to the ship that is expected to move on the waters at the
end of this month.
It is an engineering ship, its owners Mango Tree, a Chinese
company registered in Uganda told Xinhua recently at the building
site in central Uganda.
The ship will dredge ship channels on the lake-bed to open the
water ways on the lake, a move that is expected to boost trade in
the east African region.
The region under the East African Community (EAC), a trading
bloc, brings together Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya and Tanzania.
"This one is a pioneer for developing water transport in East
The water ways in Lake Victoria are very shallow, so big ships
cannot pass," said Fan Shuchun, Director Mango Tree.
Experts say Lake Victoria is an important inland waterway in the
region whose development could play a pivotal role in unlocking the
economic potential and increase integration of the EAC member
The Lake’s potential as an inland waterway is however not fully
exploited as it suffers from lack of investment and the region
depends on the expensive all-road routes.
The Lake is currently served with appropriate ports and piers
with docking facilities.
With increased economic integration in the EAC, experts argue
that lake transport is expected to handle higher volumes of cargo
Shuchun said currently it costs about 60 U.S. dollars to
transport one tonne from Kenya’s border posts of Malaba and Busia to
Uganda’s capital Kampala.
He argued that if water transport is improved, the cost will go
"If we use a lot of water transport, the cost and safety coupled
with massive transport, we would save a lot of money," said Shuchun.
He said once the ship is finished, it will dredge ship channels
at Uganda’s Port Bell and Jinja ports.
Thereafter it will move to Kenya’s Kisumu port before proceeding
to Tanzania’s Bukoba and Mwanza ports.
What is now critical, according to Shuchun is commitment by the
region’s governments to fast track the dredging process.
He said it would cost an estimated one billion U.S. dollars to
dredge ship channels and build bigger ports on Lake Victoria.
Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania already have a trade partnership to
promote the use of Lake Victoria to ease congestion on the roads and
ensure that the countries’ harbors handle more goods.
Once the dredge ship is complete, Shuchun said the company, using
its Chinese experience will embark on construction of cargo and
There are also plans to set up a marine vocational school where
students are taught how to build boats. They will also be equipped
with other skills like welding which they can apply elsewhere to
earn a living.
"The Chinese have taught me how to operate a Crane. With this
skill, I can work anywhere even when I leave this place," Yeeko
Kanyoro, Crane Operator told Xinhua.
The locals who have been involved in the construction of dredger
will be integrated in the marine school to pass on their skills or
the will work elsewhere to pass on the skills.