26 February 2013

East Africa: Poor Infrastructure Hinders Integration - Official

Nairobi — Efforts towards regional integration in East Africa have been seriously hindered by poor infrastructure.

This has resulted into some of the programmes towards full integration seriously running behind schedule.

According to the Secretary General of the East African Community (EAC) Richard Sezibera member countries have made great strides towards free movement of goods and services but not much has been achieved due to a poor transport network linking the member countries.

"Member countries have tried to eliminate bottlenecks such as non-tariff barriers. These efforts have however been watered down by an unreliable transport and general logistics system," said Sezibera in Nairobi last week.

"We appreciate the fact that these transport and general infrastructure issues will take some time to fix, but commitment towards the same by the concerned parties has been wanting," said the Secretary General.

There is however some light at the end of the tunnel with most of the EAC member countries agreeing to prioritize infrastructure projects that will hasten the integration process. The countries have committed to this over the next ten years, according to Sezibera.

Kenya for instance is investing in the revamping the road network in addition to the search for strategic capital investors to resuscitate the almost ground railway network linking the country to Uganda.

Efforts by the Rift Valley Railways (RVR) the consortium that won the bid to turn around the facility have not borne much fruit with disillusionment now setting in on the part of the government and locals.

Other projects being fast tracked by Kenya is the privatization of the port of Mombasa which serves as a key entry point for region bound cargo to east Africa.

The port has in the past suffered from serious congestion mostly blamed on inefficiency on the part of the management.

This situation has driven countries to the drawing board in search of alternatives to the port with Tanzania coming in as an expensive by only alternative.

Emerging investment opportunities in the region for instance the discovery oil in Kenya and Uganda will most likely hasten the development of infrastructure in the region.

The most out standing is the oil pipeline which is planned to link Kenya and Uganda and whose feasibility studies and funding mechanisms are already complete.

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