East Africa in­fra­struc­ture projects should be joint

East African Business Week - - EDITORIAL -

Kenya has kicked off their side of the in­fra­struc­ture projects that were promised and agreed to by the East African Com­mu­nity mem­bers un­der the East African Rail­way Mas­ter Plan. The US$ 24 bil­lion project, with the Acro­nym LAPSSET (Lamu Port, South Su­dan Ethiopia Trans­port Cor­ri­dor) is a mas­sive in­fra­struc­ture project orig­i­nat­ing from Kenya, con­sist­ing of a 32-berth port on the coun­try’s north coast, a rail­way, an oil pipe­line, high­ways, in­ter­na­tional air­ports, and re­sort cities. This will def­i­nitely an­swer the ques­tion of en­sur­ing a timely de­liv­ery of goods to both lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional mar­kets for the area so af­fected. There have been, how­ever, sev­eral hick­ups to the project mainly due to bick­er­ing by mem­ber states and dis­agree­ments that, do not seem to orig­i­nate from re­al­is­tic ob­jec­tions or is­sues other than dif­fer­ences in opin­ion and, per­haps ego. There was a pipe­line slated to use this same LAPSSET cor­ri­dor from Uganda to the coast, but this was shelved in favour of the Tan­za­nia route. Of­course, there are is­sues of se­cu­rity in the north of Kenya, with sev­eral swathes of land be­ing rather law­less due to the dif­fi­culty to reach these ar­eas. How­ever, one of the cre­ators of the project, Ger­ris­hon Ikiara, says the in­fra­struc­ture project it­self will bring about se­cu­rity in the area due to the fact that the area will now be easy to reach. This is all good, but there is an air of go­ing it alone in this project. The name LAPSSET does not have any­thing to do with the ini­tial East Africa Rail­way Mas­ter plan and you no­tice that coun­tries like Rwanda and Bu­rundi are not go­ing to ben­e­fit from this mas­sive project. The best way to counter this would be to adopt the join them men­tal­ity. Tan­za­nia and Uganda, to­gether with Rwanda and Bu­rundi, could also start their projects which would even­tu­ally tie up with the Kenya project through con­nect­ing rail­way lines. If this is not done, there may come a di­vide where some coun­tries may rightly feel they have done their own projects and there­fore do not need to share in them with other coun­tries. Many of the coun­tries in East Africa, ap­part from Kenya and Tan­za­nia, are land­locked and they would be the big­ger ben­e­fi­cia­ries of these in­fra­struc­ture projects. For such a project to point out­side East Africa is al­ready a loss. The cost of do­ing busi­ness in East Africa is al­ready very high given the poor state of in­fra­struc­ture in vir­tu­ally all the EAC coun­tries. While there is oil to be mined in Uganda, this should not be the rea­son the EAC coun­tries fail to reach agree­ment. Kenya is build­ing a pipe­line to South Su­dan which will os­ten­si­bly take oil to the coast and on for ex­port. Ini­tially, the plan was to com­bine this with the pipe­line from Uganda. Now that Uganda has gone for the Tan­za­nia route, Kenya has felt left out and has de­cided to go it alone. Un­der these cir­cum­stances, with Uganda, Rwanda and Bu­rundi still need­ing a route to the sea via Mom­basa and the new Lamu, will it still be pos­si­ble for these coun­tries to ne­go­ti­ate a friendly rate of use of the rail­way lines that LAPSSET will gen­er­ate? This ques­tion needs to be an­swered soon.

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