Nairobi — Kenya's progress in the construction of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) has earned praise from regional Heads of State who now want Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan to follow suit.
The Heads of State who attended the 14th Summit on the Northern Corridor Integration Projects (NCIP) were particularly impressed by Kenya's commitment to the implementation of a modern railway network having completed and launched the first phase of the SGR from Mombasa to Nairobi and gone a step further to initiate the second phase from Nairobi to Naivasha.
"The Summit lauded the completion and commissioning of Mombasa -Nairobi section of the SGR in 2017 which is already transporting increasing number of passengers and cargo," the leaders noted in a joint communiqué released at the close of the summit held in Nairobi.
The summit, hosted by President Uhuru Kenyatta, was attended by President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and President Paul Kagame of Rwanda while President Salva Kiir of South Sudan was represented by a special envoy Aggrey Tisa Sabuni.
Speaking at the close of the conference, President Kenyatta underscored the immense benefits of the joint interventions initiated under the NCIP since its inception in 2013.
"It is definitely good news for our citizens," said the President as he cited joint actions including the single customs territory that has resulted in reduced transit times and cost of goods.
President Kenyatta further assured his regional colleagues that Kenya will sustain the momentum in the timely implementation of the remaining phases of the SGR to reach the Kenya-Uganda border town of Malaba.
On his part, President Museveni said he is happy when he attends NCIP summits because Uganda's economy is supported mainly by neighbouring countries led by Kenya that buy its excess produce such as maize and milk.
President Museveni urged Ugandan Revenue Authority officials embedded at the port of Mombasa to work hard and for long hours like their Kenyan counterparts to ensure that there is no backlog of cargo destined to Uganda at the port.
President Kagame thanked President Kenyatta for reconvening the summit after a two year break.
"I thank you President Kenyatta for reconvening the summit after nearly two years so that we can keep up the momentum in fashioning and implementing joint initiatives and projects for the benefit our region," said President Kagame.
In the joint communiqué, the East African leaders reaffirmed their commitment to advancing regional integration while underscoring the importance of accelerating socio-economic transformation, industrialisation and employment creation.
To ease the circulation of petroleum products in the region as a key source of industrial and domestic energy, the leaders agreed to come up with 'the Lake Victoria intermodal transport system' pending consultations on re-scoping of refined petroleum products pipeline.
Further, the leaders agreed to allocate more funding for the development of centres of excellence to support creation of requisite human resource capacities needed for the implementation and sustenance of NCIP projects.
On the setting up of a commodities exchange, the Summit received an update on the harmonisation of standards for commonly traded commodities and directed partner states to fast track the process.
"The summit directs partner states to expedite development of interlined trading platforms," leaders noted in the communiqué.
Notably, the summit considered and adopted the Accession Treaty to the Mutual Defence Pact, and agreed to finalise an agreement on the establishment of a Centralised Aeronautical Database (CAD) for the Northern Corridor Airspace bloc.
Operations at the Port of Mombasa, a key entry and exit point for cargo in the region, was also discussed with the leaders directing responsible agencies to ensure efficient and seamless clearance and movement of cargo.