EAC: 'In general, we are happy with the progress'By FRED OLUOCH | Thursday, May 31 2012 at 15:30
Despite the establishment of the East African Community (EAC) Common Market, full regional economic integration is only possible with improved infrastructure such as roads, railways, inland waterways, ports and harbours, communications/ICT, energy and civil aviation.
As result, the EAC and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) recently had a week-long technical meeting on the integration and infrastructure development agenda in the region.
The EAC Secretary-General, DR RICHARD SEZIBERA spoke to FRED OLUOCH on how the joint infrastructure projects are progressing and some of the challenges facing the region on infrastructure development.
The EAC has a vision of a modernised and revamped railways system and roads network in the region, how far has this vision gone?
Dr Sezibera: Well, our road network master plan is in place and we have done very well. If you look at all the major roads linking our countries, they have now been done. It is now possible to move from Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda to Burundi. But we are still implementing the remaining connections, for example Kigali-Kajitumba Road, Arusha-Namanga-Athi River Road is being completed; we still have to do something on Voi-Holili-Taveta Road. In general, I am happy with the progress.
On the side of railways, we have the master plan but it has been slower. I am happy we now have concession agreement between Uganda and Kenya. We are completing the detailed design studies on Central railway, which is Dar-es-Salaam-Lusaka-Kigali-Keza-Msunguti in Burundi so that we start construction soon. There is a new plan on the Lamu Corridor which will be coming on board, and then Tanga-Musoma that is being revamped. So the rail network is slow because of the nature of railway building. We have not had as much progress as we would like put we want to pull it up on the agenda.
What about inland waterways, ports and harbours? Is anything happening at the regional front or it is mainly left to national programmes?
We are now developing a maritime strategy and policy and the ports of Mombasa, Dar-es-Salaam and the new ports of Tanga are part of the regional network of projects which we are supporting. We are also looking for financing to help member states improve transport around Lake Victoria and Lake Tanganyika.
What are some of the challenges in infrastructure-funding within the EAC?
Infrastructure programmes are very complex. The regional regulatory regimes need to be harmonised. For example if the railway is supposed to cross three countries, they cannot be working three sets of regulatory laws and regulations because that makes it very complicated. The second one is financing. These are big infrastructure projects they cost billions of dollars.
The steady supply of power is a major challenge to all EAC members. What is in the pipeline at the regional level to ensure sufficient power supply?
There are programmes on joint planning on power generation be they hydro, or geothermal. We have mapped out sites and they are coming on board. Some of the power generation is shared for example the Kikagati-Mlolongo Power Plant between Uganda and Tanzania.
We also have an energy power pool programme where we are building interconnectors between Tanzania and Zambia, Kenya and Tanzania, Tanzania and Burundi, Rwanda and Burundi, Uganda and Kenya and Kenya and Ethiopia. This is because sometimes you have enough power in one country but it can’t be transported to the neighbouring country without inter-connectors.
There have been fears that regional economic communities risk losing project funding from the European Union because of low rate of absorption. Comment?
I don’t know where that is coming from. I was looking at European Development Fund (EDF) 9, and absorption is almost 100 per cent. For EDF 10 the resources are not available yet so we cannot talk about absorption. But the track record starting with EDF 8 and 9, the absorption has been very good, that is why the funds are being made available.
How do you strike a balance between regional needs and national interests when it comes to infrastructure?
The countries have a national initiative programmes, most of the infrastructure are done by the member states. But then there are some of regional natures. So our job is to make sure that infrastructure is funded and implemented. Because if you have a good road network and you are landlocked, it doesn’t help you unless you have access to the sea. Again if you have a very good port and no hinterland roads, it doesn’t make your port attractive.
How strong is the EAC region in monitoring the already running infrastructure projects?
Monitoring projects is a complex process so we still need to build that capacity at the regional level. In the meantime, we use our partner states to also monitor implementation. We are not there yet, but it is an area where we are increasingly building capacity.
How is EAC co-operating with Comesa in infrastructure development?
We are co-operating with Comesa, IGAD and SADC within the tripartite infrastructure programme, which held an investors’ conference in Kenya last year. We cooperate with them especially on the north-south corridor, which also interconnects us to the Horn of Africa; especially the Moyale-Djibouti corridor.
What do you say to concerns that the private sector and civil society hardly participate in project appraisals in the region?
Well, in most programmes we have involved private sector and civil society. But it depends on which specific projects you are talking about. If it is the road, it has so many stakeholders which include local communities, civil society, and environmental concerns. You can’t do this type of project without them even if you want to.
- Zimbabwe lecturer jailed for Mugabe 'donkey' slur
- Four Nigerians among 5 shortlisted for African writing prize
- The girl who met Gaddafi 'in hell'
- AU won’t recognise Madagascar poll win by Rajoelina
- Kenyan call girls go high-tech
- Liberia media to maintain 'blackout' on president
- Is aid to South Africa drying up?
- Somaliland marks unrecognised independence
- Somali PM disowns Jubaland 'presidents'
Beyond the ballot