To overcome non-tariff barriers associated with road transport in the East Africa Community, the five-member bloc should focus on developing water transport, especially on Lake Victoria, experts have advised. Brown Ondego, the Executive Chairman Rift Valley Railways, said a more developed water transport network will lower the costs of doing business in the region.
"The lake has comparative advantages compared to road transport. What is required is for the member states to partner private players to develop the currently underdeveloped water transport." He added: "This will not only ease transport but also attract investors."
Ondego said the new rules on weighbridges, and the numerous roadblocks along some of the busy corridors are a burden on road transport. A public private partnership (PPP) could speed up the process of improving maritime transport. A private investor engaged in a PPP has a higher chance of getting long-term finance since there is usually a government guarantee.
For East Africa's water transport network to improve, there is a need for expanding the ports to deal with the congestion, and acquiring modern handling facilities. Feeder landing sites need to be improved too. Dr Canisius Kanangire, the Lake Victoria basin commission Executive Director, cautioned that before the water transport network is developed, there is a need to first develop the Maritime Communications for the Safety of Lake Victoria (MCSLV). MCSLV is a regional project jointly implemented by the LVBC and the member states of EAC and its aim is to address maritime safety and security issues in Lake Victoria.
"As a commission, we know that with improved maritime safety, this will contribute to the saving of lives and properties for the business communities who depend on the lake for their livelihoods," said Kanangire.