East Africa infrastructure projects should be joint
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.