Uganda: All Systems Go as Uganda, DR Congo Sign Agreement on Road Projects

Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo have signed an infrastructural agreement, defining each other's role in the two roads they are jointly funding.

With Ugandan company Dott Services already selected and on site as the main contractor for the three road projects, the two countries wanted the agreements concluded and signed to pave way for smooth construction, mobilisation of equipment and funding.

The signing took place at State House Entebbe on May 27, with President Yoweri Museveni, who is yet to form cabinet, signing on behalf of Uganda, while DRC Prime Minister Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde signed on behalf of his country.

Speaker of Parliament Jacob Oulanyah and the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Works and Transport Bageya Waiswa, as well as Congo's Foreign Affairs Minister Christophe Lutundula, witnessed the signing, Uganda government officials said.

Funding

"Uganda already has its share of the funding secured," says Susan Kataike, spokesperson for the Ministry of Works and Transport. "And for the president himself signing the agreement, that's how significant these roads are."

Uganda is footing 20 percent of the total cost of these roads.

The roads run from some of Uganda's border towns into DRC, namely Kasindi to Beni (80km), integration of Beni-Butebo axis (54km), and the Bunagana-Rutshuru-Goma road (89km), with a total cost of $334.3 million, of which Uganda will contribute $65.9 million.

The DRC is one of Uganda's biggest trading partners in the region, and is often fronted as an alternative frontier market for Uganda since a civil war broke out in South Sudan in 2013 and when Rwanda closed its common border with Uganda in early 2019.

Total exports for Uganda to Congo in 2018 stood at $532 million, of which informal trade exports were worth $312 million, while formal trade accounted for $221 million. In 2019, informal exports grew to 329.8 million, according to Uganda Bureau of Statistics. Informal exports to South Sudan fetched Uganda $61.7 million in 2019 and $50.4 million earned the previous year.

Construction of three roads

Uganda's cabinet in September 2020 approved the construction of three roads in eastern Congo, to support the lucrative business opportunities between the two countries, but hampered by poor road network.

As a result, the inter-governmental agreement was concluded on May 12, on the sidelines of President Museveni's inauguration for his sixth elective term.

However, sources told The EastAfrican that the agreement could not be signed the following day because the Congolese transport minister had already flown on state duties to Europe.

"There was no agreement signed on May 12, but the delegations agreed that on his way back, the minister transits through Kampala to sign," said the source.

DRC's expansive eastern territory is a lucrative market for exports, but remains a security concern with several militia operating along trade and transport routes, yet the region is reliant on the northern corridor for movement of goods. Kinshasa agreed with Uganda and Kenya to deploy joint security operations to guarantee ease of road construction and eventually, secure commerce and movement of goods.

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