We’ll unlock economic potential, EAC leaders

East and Central Africa’s leaders (in picture) pledged yesterday to use the Central Transport Corridor to unlock the region’s socio-economic potential. 

They said the move would herald the beginning of new way of doing things—which should lead to prosperity through reduced cost of doing business.

In this scheme, the transport charges would be cut by half and cumbersome blocks such non-tariff barriers (NTBs) and red tape will be history.

Speaking at the Central Corridor Presidential Roundtable in Dar es Salaam yesterday, Presidents Jakaya Kikwete, Yoweri Museveni and Pierre Nkurunzinza—along with representatives of Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta and DR Congo’s Joseph Kabila—committed themselves to fully implement the project that is expected boost businesses and improve the lives of millions in the region.

This is one of the 51 projects approved for acceleration last year by the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. It involves constructing and improving infrastructure—especially railway tracks and roads linking the Dar es Salaam Port to landlocked neighbouring countries, namely Rwanda, Burundi, DR Congo and Uganda.

President Kikwete, who was the chairman of the session, said in his keynote speech that the region has yet to exploit its socio-economic potential to the fullest due to under-developed infrastructure. “Even when we agree on how to move forward as a bloc, financing the projects we propose always remain a challenge,” he said.

To Tanzania, which takes up a bigger chunk of the projects due to its strategic location, the initiative is both an opportunity and a challenge. 

The country has already made impressive improvements, including the performance of the Tanzania Ports Authority—which used to offload 9.2 million tonnes in 2010 but this rose to 14 million tonnes by 2014. It is projected to rise to 18 million tonnes by the end of this year.

According to President Museveni, transport covers 40 per cent of the cost of doing business in Africa—higher than the cost of electricity (30 per cent) capital (20 per cent), labour (10 per cent) and red tape (10 per cent). 

He cited the example of the Northern Corridor that runs from the Kenyan port of Mombasa to the Great Lakes that Uganda uses most, saying it now costs $3,200 to transport one container.

But if the ongoing and projected improvement of the Central Corridor is completed, he added, the cost of ferrying the same cargo will drop to $1,650, making it the preferred choice.

East African Community Secretary General Richard Sezibera said the future of the project was bright as the World Bank had just approved $450 million, $20 million of which would be used to build one-stop centres in three automated weighbridges at Vigwaza in Coast Region, Manyoni in Singida Region and Nyakahura in Kagera Region.

President Kenyatta was represented by Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohammed while DR Congo’s Joseph Kabila was represented by his minister for Transport, Mr Justin Kalunga Mgwana Ngongo. President Paul Kagame of Rwanda was represented by his minister for Infrastructure James Musoni. 

The Rwandan leader is expected to attend today’s Roundtable Conference on Infrastructure Development hosted by the World Economic Forum at the same venue. The leaders who attended the opening session were expected to tour the Tanzania Railway Company headquarters to launch the block train to Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda.
Source: The Citizen, reported by Alawi Masare, from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
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