By Francis Kagolo
THE secretary general of the East African Community (EAC) has asked member states to expedite infrastructure development projects if the region is to manage its growing cargo volumes.
Dr. Richard Sezibera said the cargo is estimated to triple in less than 15 years.
He noted that roads in the member countries are not designed to carry the heavy vehicles expected in the region as the cargo volume grows, even in five years’ time.
“In 2018 we will begin to transport oil and oil products out of East Africa. But the current road network cannot handle. This is the reason we are putting emphasis on developing a better railway network,” he stated.
He said Mombasa and Dar es Salaam ports cannot handle all the community’s cargo, so the region needs even more and bigger ports.
Sezibera noted that because of the limited capacity of EAC ports, traders have resorted to trans-shipping, whereby heavy vessels dock at the Djibouti port before cargo is transferred to smaller vessels for transportation to Mombasa and Dar es Salaam.
“Mombasa, even with the expansion, cannot handle East Africa’s cargo. We need another (port) at Tanga. We even need a deep water port,” Sezibera said.
He was meeting New Vision editors during a courtesy visit to Vision Group over the weekend. He was accompanied by several EAC Secretariat officials, who included the head of corporate communications and public affairs, Richard Owora.
The team is in the country for a two-week East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) sitting.
Sezibera also called for increased power production in the region, saying the current combined output of 3,800 Megawatts falls far too short of the required 40,000 Megawatts
“Sometimes I read in newspapers about groups of people threatening to strike over power projects such as Karuma and I wonder,” he said.
With a population of 133 million people and a combined GDP of 79.2 billion dollars, EAC boasts of an average 685 dollars per capita and the respective governments have moved to engage the private sector in the member countries to help drive the regional economic growth further.
Experts have identified infrastructure as one of the most critical drivers of successful regional integration, trade enhancement, agriculture and tourism development, as well as labour movement.
Total intra EAC trade grew from $1,617m in 2006 to $3,800m in 2010.
The increase in trade has also seen the share of the intra EAC trade rise from 7.8% in 2006 to about 11% in 2010, all these attributed to infrastructure improvement. Sezibera said one-stop border posts have simplified the clearing of goods at borders.
“I visited Malaba border four months ago. They now clear over 700 trucks a day, which used to take weeks,” Ssezibera said.
“We are happy at what is happening in Mombasa. The time for clearing goods also reduced from three weeks to two days.”
Vision Group managing director Robert Kabushenga implored the EAC secretariat to consider developing an open sky policy in the region to reduce the cost of air travel.
He also asked the secretary general to organise meetings with media personalities in each of the partner states, especially during special occasions such as EALA sittings.
Kabushenga said the move will enhance visibility of EAC affairs and help in the integration process.