NORTHERN CORRIDOR SUMMIT KICKS OFF AS MARTYRS’ DAY ENDS
(Posted 04th June 2015)
The three Northern Corridor Integration Projects countries of Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya are meeting this week in Kampala, as the 10th summit of the group, often referred to as the ‘Coalition of the Willing’ kicked off yesterday at the Kampala Serena Hotel. Observers from South Sudan and Tanzania are reportedly also in the city though it could not be ascertained that Burundi, a country in turmoil, has sent a delegation. In fact Burundi was at the last summit in Kigali quoted that the country intended to formally join the group at the next, i.e. this present summit, but political upheavals may have prevented this to be accomplished.
The three countries can look back at major accomplishments since the group decided to ditch the shackles of the wider East African Community, where some members notoriously were stepping on the brakes, and have since launched major infrastructure projects. The Standard Gauge Railway is already well into construction in Kenya, with over 42 kilometres of track now completed, while construction for the Uganda section will go underway later this month. Construction of regional overland power lines are also being accelerated to link the power grids more closely and ensure more constant and stable supply for industrial and domestic users. Customs procedures were simplified with Ugandan and Rwandan officials now based at the port of Mombasa while, as a tangible benefit for the citizens, were phone tariffs lowered to allow for the same cost of a call domestically as well as into the other two neighbouring countries. Citizens can now also travel with ID cards instead of passports and duly registered expatriates travel on so called ‘Interstate Pass’ documentation, without the hassle of having to obtain and pay for a Visa while foreign tourists can purchase a single Visa for all three countries at a reduced cost.
An aviation accord, albeit by dictate from the Heads of State since the Kenyan CAA had employed delaying and obstructing tactics, also allowed for fifth freedom right flights by RwandAir between Entebbe and Nairobi to be established, with now two flights per day.
Notably at this summit will the private sector commence taking on a greater role, as recognition had dawned on the politicians that unless they work hand in hand with the private sector tangible progress will remain limited.
The Summit will end on the weekend, preceded by a gala dinner hosted by Uganda for the visiting heads of state and other dignitaries, VIP’s and invited guests. The next, 11th Summit will be held in Kenya again.