PUBLISHED ON October 21st, 2014

Summit wants one air space

KIGALI, Rwanda – The recently concluded 7th Northern Corridor Integration Project Summit in Uganda agreed on several key points intended to merge East African Community states together.

Notable is the opening up of the airspace between Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and South Sudan by 2015 which can lower cost for carriers in the region.

“During the Heads of States Summit, the progress made in the implementation of each project was discussed and the Summit gave further directives, plus targets were set like in the previous Summits,” Monique Mukaruliza, the National Coordinator of the Tripartite Initiative Rwanda said last week.

In attendance were President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, President Salva Kiir of South Sudan, and host, President Yoweri Museveni. Eng. Michael Kamau represented President Uhuru Kenyatta.

“Among the many targets set is the ratification process of the Standard Gauge Railway Protocol which is to be completed by end of November 2014,”
she said.

Mukaruliza said the One Network Area will be officially launched by November 2014 between Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda.

By December 31st , South Sudan will also join in a bid to reduce the cost of inter-regional calls and roaming charges.

“Partner States are to implement One Network Area for data services by 31st December 2014, and develop regional standards and guidelines for inclusion of fibre optic cables in major national infrastructure projects by 31st December 2014,” she said.

“The Power interconnection line for the section Masaka-Mbarara is to be upgraded to 220kv by December 2016 and the regional standardisation to 400kv to be complete by March 2017 in order to enable partner states to trade power among themselves and import cheap electricity from outside the region,” Mukaruliza said.

Mukaruliza said Partner States are to implement total liberalisation of free movement of labour and services by 31st December 2014, and they are to have One Airspace Bloc by January 2015 and reduce the cost of air tickets in the region.

The Northern corridor integration project has made lots of progress in different sectors such as the ICT, Energy, transport, tourism among others.

This can be witnessed through the introduction of the Single Customs Territory which has reduced on transportation costs, the Single Tourist Visa which is exhibiting the region as a single destination hence boosting the tourism sector among others.

For Mukaruliza, Rwanda like other member states of the Northern Corridor Initiative will surely benefit since this will promote intra-regional trade, reduce the cost of transport and communication, attract more investors and tourists, increase peace and security in the member states, accelerate economic development and ease movement of persons, workers, self-employed persons, capital, among others.

Mukaruliza said the programme still faces challenges but most especially fast tracking completion of feasibility studies for big projects and mobilizing funds for their implementation.

“To overcome such a challenge, we are jointly sourcing for funds and hiring consultants for feasibility studies with other Partner states,” Mukaruliza said.

Most of the directives given during the Summit are to be met by next Summit which gives Partner States concerned more commitment.

According to the brief report on the Summit, the SGR meeting directed ministers for Transport and Infrastructure to expedite ratification of the SGR Protocol and together with the Ministers of Finance and Attorneys General to jointly approach China to source financing and report to the next Summit.

For the power generation and interconnection, the Summit agreed that Uganda and Rwanda jointly source funds for upgrading the Masaka-Mbarara transmission line, and further directed the Ministers of Finance to work with Ministers of Energy and Infrastructure to mobilize funds for undertaking a study on standardization of Regional Interconnectivity, and to expedite the conclusion of Power Purchase and Wheeling Agreements and report to the next Summit.

Other directives included Ministers responsible for Finance to work with Ministers of Infrastructure, Energy and Lands to fast-track the mobilization of Project financing, land acquisition and report to the next Summit, for the refined petroleum products pipeline development, Uganda to expedite the process of selecting the lead investor and acquiring land for refinery development by the end of December, 2014 for the oil refinery project, Time release studies to be conducted on annual basis for the Single Customs Territory.

The Summit directed Kenya to host a meeting the week after the Summit involving Ministers of Transport and stakeholders in the industry to operationalise strategies for reducing cost of air travel in the region and report to the next Summit, which is in support with the air space management project, plus the ministers of Immigration, Tourism and Labour to expedite conclusion of the appropriate agreements and implementation of the roadmap for total liberalisation of free movement of labour and services by 31st December 2014 and Uganda was directed to expedite the issue of removal of work permits fees for Kenyan and Rwandan citizens and report to the next Summit.

The report reveals that the Summit agreed on harmonising tuition fees in public institutions of higher learning designating Uganda Technical College Kichwamba and Morendat Pipeline Training Centre as Centres of Excellence.

Ministers in charge of commodities exchange are to expedite harmonization of laws on Warehousing and Commodity Exchange and report to the next Summit which will support Rwanda in its business proposal for joint investment in EAX.

For the Defense, Peace and Security project the Summit noted the significant progress made on the ratification of the Mutual Defence Pact and Mutual Peace and Security Pact and directed Partner States to expedite ratification and report to the 8th Summit.

Source:: East African Business Week

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