The East African Community (EAC) currently consists of 5 countries vis Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania. Of these, only two have direct access to the sea, whilst the rest of the three are landlocked and thus fully dependent on the other two to handle bulk imports and exports.
As a result of these dependencies, the EAC has established groupings and protocols like the Northern Corridor and the Central Corridor transport routes to handle and advise on logistical issues surrounding the transportation of goods mainly to the ports of Mombasa and Tanzania.
The major issue addressed in these groupings is infrastructure.
The EAC are currently net importers of goods and the transportation of these from the ports of Mombasa and Tanzania has been the biggest preoccupation hence the regular infrastructure summits like the one held in Kampala and Kigali recently.
Because of the bulk of the exports and imports passing through Mombasa and Dar es Salaam, it is important for the road and rail network to be efficient and reliable. This has not been the case and there has been a lot of dependence on the road networks that have been problematic due to the poor condition of the roads, the problems associated with border crossings and dealings with different authorities.
In order to address this, member states of the Northern Corridor; Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda and Burundi have been pushing for the establishment of a Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) project to relieve the pressure on the dilapidated and often unreliable road network in the region. Other countries likely to benefit from this initiative are the Democratic Republic of Congo and Southern Sudan.
Other local initiatives to upgrade the local road network like those being carried out in Tanzania and Uganda will definitely help ease the cost of doing business in the region.
Other initiatives that are likely to help sort out infrastructure bottlenecks are the recent establishment of a one-network solution for telecommunications in which the region will use uniform call, SMS and data rates will also help ease business transactions.
Other infrastructure concerns are the establishment of oil pipelines and electricity transmission lines all the way to Burundi and the Democratic republic of Congo. This will ease the energy costs specifically of petroleum and electricity.
All these call for a united front in seeking for financing and the protocols that will cause these projects to flow seamlessly from one country to another. Already, the EAC is working on free movement of persons and one-stop border posts. These will not only make it easy to do business, but will also lower the cost of doing business, hence make EAC products competitive on the foreign markets.
Because trade and commerce cannot be done well in the situations of poor infrastructure, it is imperative, therefore, that the EAC speak with one voice on issues of infrastructure development. While we have the Northern Corridor (encompassing Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and sometimes Burundi) and the Central corridor (mainly Tanzania and Burundi), we should not be seen as competitors but as complimenting each other.
The development of the Lamu port to bolster the Northern Corridor, while it is purely a Kenya initiative, should also be embraced by the EAC as an infrastructure bonus, seeing as we have made steps in establishing the EAC as a single Customs area.
A lot of credit also goes to the partners in this projects for example the SGR and the Electricity transmission infrastructure that are being largely led by investments from China.
Other investment partners are welcome ofcourse, but for now, the EAC needs mainly investments in infrastructure.
Source: East African Business Week
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of TradeMark Africa.