The Joho family, including former Mombasa Governor Ali Hassan Joho and his brother, businessman Abu Joho, are staring at potential losses running into the millions of shillings following a new move by President William Ruto’s administration to enable more logistics firms to handle cargo headed to South Sudan.
Trade Principal Secretary Mohammed Daghar has announced the nomination of firms to handle imports to South Sudan – Compact, Consolbase, Mombasa Container Terminal and Mitchell Cotts. The Trade Ministry also announced that importers in South Sudan will be free to use any Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) custom bonded warehouse.
The Johos through their logistics company Autoports Freight Terminals have for the past two years enjoyed a monopoly in handling cargo destined for South Sudan from Kenya, thanks to a lucrative contract signed with Kenya Railways Corporation (KRC). Autoports is licensed to operate container freight stations (CFS) – warehouses where export and import shipments are consolidated or deconsolidated.
“We reiterate the same message that importers/cargo owners from South Sudan are free to choose any KRA/Customs approved facility and the government of Kenya cannot direct any party on matters relating to selection of any clearing agencies,” the PS communicated, citing a notice from the South Sudanese government allowing more clearing agencies to handle their cargo.
Autoports had secured exclusive rights to run the inland cargo terminal in Nairobi, sparking protests from rival logistics firms. The company received the rights from the Kenya Railways Corporation (KRC) to use of the Nairobi Freight Terminal (NFT), located near the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) terminal in Syokimau.
A notice by the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) dated August 17th 2021 indicated that the company would handle all containerised and conventional cargo from the terminal.
The company secured the South Sudan contract on the strength of its logistical set-up as its deal with Kenya Railways handed it a terminal at the Nairobi Inland Container Depot, which is connected to the SGR and allows convenient evacuation of cargo from the port of Mombasa.