Nairobi — President Paul Kagame today joined President Kenyatta, President Museveni, President Salva Kiir and the Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in Kenya's capital Nairobi to witness the signing ceremony of the first phase of the Standard Gauge Railway agreement with China.
The railway project is expected to change the region's economic landscape by providing efficient and cost effective rail transport for both freight and passengers. It is intended to reduce the cost of doing business by reducing the cost of transport among the countries served by the Northern Corridor.
Passenger trains will have a speed of 120 kilometers per hour while those for freight will be designed to move at 80 kilometers an hour. It will take passengers four hours and 30 minutes to travel from Mombasa to Nairobi while freight will take eight hours.
The signing also included an Institutional Framework based on the Northern Integration Corridor whereby EAC countries will concurrently build railway portions in their own countries that will connect with Kenya.
President Kenyatta said Kenya would continue making development strides in partnership with dependable friends:
"We have shown our ambition. We have rejected the mediocrity of simply sticking with what we have. We have found partners of equal determination. It now falls to us to complete the project as rapidly as we know we can."
The project is expected to kick off on 1 October and take 42 months to complete. 90 per cent of the financing will come from China Exim Bank while the remaining 10 per cent from the Government of Kenya.
The Chinese Premier who has been on a three-day State Visit to Kenya, said closer partnership between Africa and China with a combined population of more than 2.4 billion people was more than cooperation on single projects but was "a communication linking the hearts and minds of people".
Kenya's Treasury Cabinet secretary, Henry Rotich and the president of China Exim Bank Li Ruogu signed the agreements for the construction and financing of the project.
The East African community is home to 150 million people and joint integration projects will facilitate trade and movement of goods and people. Members Countries Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, the United Republic of Tanzania, and the Republic of Uganda are stepping up efforts to attain full integration in areas economic affairs, infrastructure, science and technology; productive Sector; social sector; and cooperation in legal, judicial and political matters.
The roadmap of EAC integration foresees the gradual progress from a customs union achieved between 2005 and 2010, a common market ongoing since 2010 and monetary union whose process started in 2012, finally culminating in a political federation.
Against this background, Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya have undertaken a series of joint projects aimed at fast tracking regional development through joint infrastructure, trade and political and economic integration.
The projects spearheaded by Rwanda include the use of National ID as travel documents, launched during the 4th Northern Corridor Integration Projects Summit held in February this year in Kampala, Uganda. Rwanda is also leading on the implementation of the single tourist visa, the establishment of single customs territory, defense and security cooperation, air space management and connectivity. Projects headed by Kenya and Uganda include construction of the railway, oil pipeline and refinery and electricity generation.
President Kagame commended progress of integration projects:
"We are all motivated by a sense of shared purpose and urgency in obtaining desired results. We would like to see all these projects, including infrastructure initiatives proceed according to time lines. Our people look to us as leaders and there is no doubt that we can make a difference in their lives."
The Treaty for establishment of the EAC was signed on 30th November 1999, and came into force on 7th July 2000. Rwanda and Burundi acceded to the EAC Treaty on the 18th June 2007 and became full members of the community effective 1st July 2007.