By Samuel Sanya
Ministers and donor organisations will meet in Uganda this weekend to raise funds to fast-track joint infrastructure projects within the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA).
The high level summit is slated for September 14 and is in response to directives by President Yoweri Museveni, the current COMESA chair at the 16th heads of state and Government summit.
Museveni noted that African economies are too divided up.
He added that there is need to work on infrastructure development with railway links to Southern Sudan, DR Congo and Rwanda, as well as Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya.
“The high level conference is expected to attract ministers of infrastructure, finance, energy, trade and information technology from COMESA member states,” Amelia Kyambadde, the trade minister and COMESA council of ministers chair told reporters at the Media Centre yesterday.
President Museveni will open the summit at the Imperial Royale hotel. The main theme of the conference is “Innovative means of Infrastructure Financing.”
There are projects worth a combined $60.7b (sh158trillion) which are either ready for implementation or in the pipeline in the 19 COMESA countries.
Of this, $22.8b (sh59trillion) has been earmarked for rehabilitation and upgrades of the Djibouti-Lamu-Nacala railway and the Mombasa-Kampala-Kigali railway.
Pipeline and ongoing power generation projects in the region are estimated at $37b as demand grows.
There are plans to fast-track the Zambia-Tanzania-Kenya, Ethiopia-Kenya, Zimbabwe-Zambia-Botswana-Namibia, South Sudan-Uganda and Eritrea-Sudan power interconnection projects among others.
Key projects include the 1,870Mw Gibe III dam and the 5,000Mw Renaissance dam in Ethiopia, the 3,500 to 4,000Mw Inga dam in DRC and 700Mw Karuma dam in Uganda.
The power interconnection projects are meant to unlock the energy markets, promote private sector investment and to remove electricity production gaps in countries within the region.
Projects worth $635m (1.7trillion) have been earmarked with respect to improving universal access to ICT, interconnection, spectrum management and monitoring.
Kyambadde noted that representatives from the PTA bank, BADEA, the East African development bank (EADB) and the African Development Bank (AfDB) will also attend and are expected to commit funds for infrastructure budget.
She noted that when complete, these projects will lead to an overall reduction in the cost of doing business, deepen regional integration and improve intra-regional trade.
The COMESA region has a population of over 400 million people and a combined GDP of $799 billion in 2010, making it one of the biggest African trading blocs.
Intra-COMESA trade had increased to $18.4 billion by 2011, signifying a recovery from 2009 when trade was $12.7 billion due to the global economic recession.
The region includes Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Kenya, Rwanda, DR Congo, Burundi, Comoros, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Djibouti, Madagascar, Mauritius, Malawi, Uganda, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Seychelles and Swaziland.