‘Coalition of the willing’ continues to isolate Tanzania and Burundi
Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya tripartite partnership that has been branded as the ‘coalition of the willing’ will push for more intensive cooperation to ensure sufficient provision of financing for infrastructure development. During a regional meeting in Kigali, Rwanda on Monday, Presidents Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda agreed to launch of a single tourist at the next infrastructure summit which could take place in Juba, South Sudan early 2014. The three countries want to push for more financing mobilization from private public agreements and also by inviting investors to actively invest in proposed infrastructure projects in Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda. They are pushing ahead without Burundi and Tanzania in formulating infrastructure projects funding as soon as possible, launch joint tourist VISA and facilitate movement of people using national identity cards within their countries. They agreed that Ugandans will use their voter’s card as travel documents to Rwanda and Kenya as they do not have national Identity Cards while students without voters’ card can use school identity cards although application of entry coupon that will act as an entry stamp and will be attached to the identity cards. Uganda waived work permit fees after similar moves by Kenya and Rwanda with citizens being issued permits free of charge.
Establishment of joint infrastructure projects is viewed as essential because it will provide financing support for infrastructure development being funded by the three governments. According to an insider who attended the meetings, the three countries are to focus on financing of the projects from within themselves. Among the high profile projects offered are the standard gauge railway line that will connect Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa with Kampala Uganda all the way to Kigali in Rwanda with the rest of the region’s other existing rail networks. Kenya is offering speedy implementation of energy projects under its jurisdiction that will directly link the country’s electricity network to Uganda and Rwanda while Uganda is fast tracking the construction of oil refinery and pipeline. The projects are estimated to cost more than US$10 billion. When it comes to broadband projects being implemented, the three countries are optimistic that Internet connections will be faster and more reliable answering complaints addressed by three countries users that Internet connections are often slow. The three countries also aims to raise the number of mobile phone users to 100% of Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda million population in the next five years from the current 50 million users to 82 million. Other infrastructure projects offered through tripartite agreement by Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda include those in cargo transportations, ports, roads airports, energy and oil pipeline and refinery.
Increasing regional integration in East Africa is creating a need for more cross-border infrastructure projects developed by governments, the private sector and donors and that is why South Sudan, Africa’s newest state is keen to join Africa most efficient and best performing regional economic bloc. East African countries have increasingly become important parts of the continent production network and supply chain. To strengthen regional production networks, cross-border infrastructure projects like those involving Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda or the one that involve Burundi, Rwanda and Tanzania on the other hand are becoming more important to ensure smooth transportation of goods in the region as well as logistical support. As East Africa’s existing physical linkages are in dire state, the region can gain more from improved cross-border connectivity such as cross-border transport corridors on land and a series of feeder ports and regional hubs -for promoting exports and imports like Kampala’s Port Bell port, Bukoba and Mwanza ports in Tanzania and Kisumu port in Kenya. The success of the proposed rail links from Mombasa to Kampala and Rwanda, as well as the construction of the Uganda-South Sudan-Kenya and Uganda-Rwanda and Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo oil transmission line, would definitely encourage funding of such projects and drive the private sector players in the region to look for viable new cross-border infrastructure projects.
The East Africa Development Bank (EADB) and African Development Bank (ADB) are currently active in promoting development and infrastructure programs, which includes roads, power projects and expansion of both airports and ports. Under single customs territory, tax on goods imported into Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda will be paid at Mombasa and trucks will be weighed only on crossing the border. Development partners are optimistic that the proposed projects with better planning, communications and marketing, will proceed as planned with or without Burundi and Tanzania. The three countries are also pushing for regional cooperation in the aviation sector, which is currently highly fragmented, with more than 10 air transport operators, 50 aircraft and more than 1,000 licensed personnel in Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda. According to the proposed plan, there is need to help reduce the overall cost of oversight through avoiding duplication of services, create economies of scale, harmonize regulatory systems and making available scarce technical expertise as and when needed among the three countries of Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya. While the Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda are focusing on cross-border infrastructure projects, the Tanzanian government is said to be pursuing cross-border projects in Southern African Development Co-operation (SADC) Projects, focusing on trans-country construction of road and railway projects to promote more intra trade among SADC nations like the way Tanzania Zambia Railway (TAZARA) has effectively done over the years. Me think that to successfully compete in a global economy, East African countries have to come together to try to strengthen regional ties and Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda partnership is classic example of countries with a shared vision and political will to pursue development agenda that will improve the lives of their citizens.