The future of East Africa lies in close partnership and cooperation between the six member states of Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan. It is because between them, they command a massive potential market of 150 million consumers. The initial three partner states, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, share the huge Lake Victoria water mass that largely remains unexploited. The fishing and a bit of transportation are only a tiny fraction of the riches that lie beneath it.
Ironically, the shipping services and infrastructure between the key ports of Mwanza, Kisumu and Jinja were better utilised during the colonial days. Instead of promoting trade, there has been heavy policing of the lake's waters by security personnel, hampering the movement of fishers. Kenyans have borne the brunt of security operations, especially by Ugandan marine police.
The Sh800 million revamping of the Kisumu port underlines the determination to open a new chapter in using the lake. This and the ongoing rehabilitation of the old railway lines in western Kenya is good news amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Many hope once the deadly virus wreaking havoc on East Africa is tamed, business will pick up once again and the port will be pivotal in this.
Even amid frictions such as the recent spat between Tanzania and Kenya over the testing of truck drivers for the coronavirus, the matter was quickly resolved with the leaders on both sides reiterating the need to keep the trade corridors open. Every country needs the others as a source of goods and market for commodities.
The Kisumu port would have been boosted even more by the stalled extension of the standard gauge railway from Nairobi. The East African countries must work together to benefit from the economies of scale from regional ventures.