PUBLISHED ON February 12th, 2015

East African tourism: Northern Corridor Integration summits

Key private sector platforms, thought to include the East African Business Council, the East African Tourism Platform, and national manufacturers’ associations are thought to be the target for an official invitation to become part of the Northern Corridor Integration Summits, effective from the March meeting planned for Kigali.

While key private sector players have in the past been at the venues and interacted with the various meetings of panel of experts, they were hitherto unable to fully participate in the ministerial meetings, where the final agenda for the Head of State Summits was put together.

A usually reliable source indicated that the next summit will commence in Kigali on March 4 with the respective expert groups meeting, before the ministerial takes place on March 6 and the four Heads of State meeting on March 7 at the Kigali Serena Conference Centre.

In the same communication, it was confirmed that South Sudan’s telecommunications companies will by then be expected to have joined the “one network area,” removing roaming charges and treating calls into the other countries as domestic calls, something the three – Uganda, Rwanda, and Kenya – have already achieved.

Further information was, however, not forthcoming, if for instance South Sudan will join the common tourist visa arrangements – not that under the present circumstances many if any tourists actually dare to visit that country – or if the travel rules, using ID cards for citizens when crossing the respective borders, can be made effective, considering that South Sudan does not have ID cards and may have to rely on voter’s cards or other forms if IDs.

The source, however, did mention that “several key issues the private sector has pushed of late will be part of the discussions in Kigali,” not denying that aviation and other travel-related issues, including the overdue facilitation of expatriate travel across the CoW countries, will be finalized.

A source from Kigali, who should be in the know, also added that “unless the bilateral issue over RwandAir’s route to Nairobi is resolved, it will be put on the agenda. We have no hesitation to hanging out the Kenyan regulators to dry and make an example of them. The head of state directive to remove non-tariff barriers and obstacles was clear. What the Kenyan regulators do with others is perhaps not right but their business, but what they do to our national airline is our business. If they do not give way, it will be a big mistake for them because names will be named.

The cooperation presently involves over a dozen projects, most prominent among them the Standard Gauge Railway which will eventually link the port of Mombasa with Uganda and Rwanda and the regional refinery project in Uganda’s oil region which could refine enough crude to supply the entire region with “white fuels.”

A key representative from the tourism industry will be Waturi Wa Matu, the coordinator of the East African Tourism Platform, who will no doubt push for a number of issues to be finally resolved and operationalized in order to boost regional travel and make it more affordable. The summit was originally scheduled to take place in February but was pushed into early March following a meeting last week in Juba, South Sudan, which brought various expert groups together to help shape the agenda for the Kigali meeting.

South Sudan is at present not a member of the East African Community but has applied for membership which in view of the internal strife which has since December 2013 torn the country apart, has been delayed until stability has returned and harmonization measures can be put into place. These extend to legislation, regulations, lifting of currency controls, and the removal of a range of non-tariff barriers presently in place.

Source: Global Travel Industry News

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