By Joseph Kizza
MOMBASA - President Yoweri Museveni is neighbouring Kenya for a two-day state visit that started Wednesday.
The Ugandan head-of-state, who was received warmly by his counterpart and host Uhuru Kenyatta at Moi International Airport in Mombasa, was Thursday set to travel from Mombasa to the Kenyan capital Nairobi - not by air, but instead on the Standard Gauge Railway tracks.
"It should take me only four hours on a journey of 480kms," he tweeted.
"Apparently, I will be the first visiting head-of-state to use this facility. I am honoured," added Museveni in the same tweet in which he expressed his eagerness to take the train ride.
Consolidating economic, trade partnership
A couple of hours ago, Presidents Museveni and Kenyatta addressed the Kenya-Uganda Business Forum at the Sarova White Sands Hotel in Kenya's coastal city of Mombasa.
This was Wednesday evening.
The forum brought together business people from both nations' private sector.
"For a long time, from the Egyptian Civilization, through the Roman Empire and the Renaissance Age, there lacked clarity on how exactly nations should make wealth. It was Adam Smith in 1776 who seemed to offer concrete, practical answers to this question," Museveni later recounted what they had talked about.
"It is now clear that a country's wealth is created by the private sector. The role of government is to make sure the environment is conducive for the private sector to thrive. In Uganda's case, we are focusing on reducing costs of doing business by ensuring steady supply of cheap electricity, working on infrastructure like roads and the railway, while also capitalizing Uganda Development Bank (UDB) so that manufacturers can borrow money at low interest," he said.
Museveni pointed out that Uganda's emphasis and push for integration is "hinged on the fact that we need a big market for the products produced by our private sector".
And his argument is: You cannot only rely on your internal market.
"It is why we preach EAC unity, COMESA and now the Continental Free Trade Area.
"I must thank the Kenyan government and President Uhuru in particular for ensuring that goods destined for Uganda are cleared in the shortest time possible at the Mombasa port. It is something we had grappled with for a while but was fixed the moment President Uhuru came to office.
"We also look forward to partnering on other projects with our Kenyan brothers. For example, they have offered us land to build a dry port at Naivasha. The SGR is a project we are partnering on.
"Also, we shall take advantage of the petroleum facility built in Kisumu so that we transport our petroleum products across Lake Victoria and save our roads from wear and tear occasioned by the heavy trucks," said President Museveni.
Conducive business environment
President Uhuru Kenyatta stated that Kenya🇰🇪 and Uganda🇺🇬 have resolved to partner in developing first-class infrastructure projects under the Northern Corridor Integration Projects framework. He said this aims at connecting the two nations and the continent #KenyaUgandaRelations pic.twitter.com/tYW0gMIAz9— State House Kenya (@StateHouseKenya) March 27, 2019
On his part, President Kenyatta re-echoed his government's commitment to facilitate the private sector "by creating an environment conducive for businesses to thrive".
His administration's plan is to boost investments and promote job creation.
Kenyatta, during Wednesday's forum, urged the consolidation of existing partnerships and promotion of new investments between the two neighbouring nations.
These partnerships, he underlined, will spur development and enhance sustainable intra-Africa trade.
According to the Kenyan leader, Kenya and Uganda enjoy cordial and thriving economic and trade relations. Total bilateral trade, accordfing to a tweet by State House Kenya, was sh103.8b (about sh3.8 trillion Ugandan shillings) in 2017.
Necessary measures should be put in place to enhance the trade partnership, added Kenyatta.
Kenyatta also re-emphasised his government's commitment to co-operate with Uganda for the benefit of the people of the two East African nations. In fact, the progress made in trade promotion and free movement of goods, services and people across borders was one of the things that pleased the Kenyan leader.
He also thanked Uganda, a landlocked nation, for continuing to use the port of Mombasa.
With the existing One Stop Border Posts bearing fruit, the two countries are working to set up more such posts to "further ease movement of people, goods and services between the two countries".