In March 2012, the government announced a massive US$20 billion infrastructure development project – the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor (LAPSSET) – at Manda Bay, 16km north of Lamu. This, the continent’s largest ever civil engineering project, would see a pipeline built to deliver oil from South Sudan to a new refinery near Lamu island; the building of a giant tanker terminal; more than 1700km of new highways and railways to South Sudan and Ethiopia; and three new airports and tourist resorts in Lamu, Isiolo and Lake Turkana. Unsurprisingly, the plans have met resistance from local groups, and so far little has been achieved but lucrative land sales and huge kickbacks from “feasibility studies”. With no financial backer and no credible economic rationale for the project, LAPSSET looks like a classic white elephant.

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