Ali Hassan Joho is the Deputy Party leader of ODM and the immediate former Governor of Mombasa county. With his brother Abu Joho, the Johos have built one of the biggest international freight businesses in the country.
Their Mombasa-based firm, Autoports Freight Terminals Limited, has over the years locked down a number of lucrative contracts putting them at the heart of regional trade in East Africa. Autoports is licensed to operate container freight stations (CFS) – warehouses where export and import shipments are consolidated or deconsolidated.
In 2021, Autoports secured rights to take over operations of the taxpayers’-funded inland cargo terminal in Nairobi, sparking protests from rival logistics firms eyeing the lucrative opportunity. The company received exclusive 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 also secured a contract that made it the sole handler of South Sudan’s imports. It offered a strong 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.
It was feared that the Johos would lose the contract after President William Ruto won the 2022 General Elections, particularly after Ruto ordered for all port operations to revert to Mombasa, fulfilling one of his campaign promises. Joho had supported Ruto’s rival Raila Odinga.
South Sudan, however, piled pressure on the Kenyan government to maintain Autoports as the sole handler of its cargo. A government notice to Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) and Kenya Railways eventually informed them that Autoports Freight Terminals Limited would continue to be the sole handler of South Sudan cargo – a major win for the Johos.
In 2021, the firm was also awarded a multi-billion shilling contract by the Kenya Ports Authority to develop a second grain bulk handling facility at the Mombasa port. The deal was, however, suspended by the High Court.