Regional forum seeks Sh270b to finance transport corridors

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Experts are gearing up for a major regional infrastructure conference that will bring together three trading blocs.

The forum is hoping to attract investments into transport and energy sectors as member countries seek to reduce the cost of doing business.

The meeting of delegates from Comesa, EAC and SADC – also referred to as the tripartite – together with IGAD, will be held on September 28 and 29 in Nairobi.

It is expected to attract about $3 billion (Sh270 billion) in funding for key infrastructural projects in the region.

Focus will be on four critical corridors — Central, Northern, Lamu and Djibouti in Eastern and Horn of Africa region.

The corridors traverse 10 countries, including Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Rwanda, Southern Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.

The Northern and Lamu corridors are important to Kenya because they will open up the largely undeveloped northern part of the country, and stimulate new businesses, trade, agriculture and social economic development, according to the Ministry of Trade.

Movement of goods in the region is very expensive, making consumer prices even costlier. For example, it costs $4,300 (Sh390,000) to move cargo from Mombasa to Burundi, compared to a similar distance in Britain which costs about $430 (Sh39,000), ten times less.

Network connectivity

Selected infrastructure projects in roads, rail, ports, inland waterways and energy sectors will be showcased in the conference.

Anthony Muriu, chief economist at the Ministry of Trade said the tripartite conference’s quest is to encourage projects that will provide network connectivity throughout EAC, SADC, Comesa and IGAD.

“The projects when pulled off will have a direct and significant effect on transport efficiency, reducing both the cost and the time for transport of goods and people both within the countries and internationally,” he said.

The conference will be opened by President Kibaki and will be attended by, among others, King Mswati III of Swaziland, who is the Chairperson of the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (Comesa), President Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi and chair of the East African Community, President Jose Eduardo dos Santos of Angola, and chair of the South African Development Community.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who is the chair of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), will also be in attendance.

The road to regional integration and infrastructure development in East and Southern Africa region started in 2008 in Uganda, at the Comesa-EAC-SADC Tripartite Summit.

At the summit, the North-South Corridor Aid for Trade programme, which is being implemented under the Tripartite framework, was launched.

The Tripartite and IGAD have adopted development of Aid for Trade programmes along the major regional corridors to roll out priority infrastructure. Muriu said the aim is to look at the feasibility and bankability of a number of major infrastructure projects, allowing investors from both public and private sector to finance them.

“There are projects that are going to be privatised so that they can have a return on investment,” he said.

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