As the new year starts, the EAC is preparing to roll out integration projects that are likely to test the region’s unity and commitment.
At least five projects are set for implementation this month, among them a common defence, security and foreign policy that will see Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania jointly strengthen their military capabilities for conflict prevention and crisis management.
Simiyu Werunga, the director of the African Centre for Security and Strategic Studies, said having a common EAC security, defense and foreign policy is important for regional security as it will ensure that partner states rarely fight amongst themselves.
“With combined security resources, this will deter countries from attacking each other,” said Mr Werunga. “It is good for the stability and economic growth of the region.”
He said if the policies violate international law or human rights, or are disrespectful of the rule of law or democratic principles within the three partner states, the pact has the right to issue diplomatic or economic sanctions.
Under the arrangement, the armed forces of partner states are expected to work as a team in maritime patrols to ensure that the region’s international waters are free of piracy. Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda are expected to sign the defence, security and foreign policy pact this month, and establish common foreign policy by October 2014.
Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda already launched the Single Customs Territory (SCT) last week. Burundi and Tanzania are not part of the initial roll out process because two countries rely on the Central Corridor, which is served by the port of Dar es Salaam.
Meshack Kipturgo, managing director at freight logistics firm Siginon, said implementation of the SCT could reduce cargo clearing costs by half, since the transit bond fees along the corridor will be scrapped.
EAC member states had set a January 2014 deadline to implement the single tourist visa and to facilitate the use of IDs as travel documents for its citizens. By January 1, Rwandans were already reportedly using their national ID’s to cross into Uganda.
In the first quarter of 2014, integration officials are also expected to fast-track the implementation of the political federation, the Customs Union, and the Common Market Protocol.
The EAC Common Market Protocol has led to an increase in exports to the region. The protocol came into effect in 2010, and is being implemented over a five-year period with a deadline of 2015.
“The Common Market Protocol can work better if all the five partner states take the required steps to ensure that it is fully implemented,” said Kenya Association of Manufacturers chief executive Betty Maina.
Partner states are expected to conclude the ratification of the East African Monetary Union Protocol, signed in November 2013, by July 2014. It is expected to be implemented in 10 years by member states.
The EAC member states also plan to implement infrastructure projects focusing on energy generation and distribution, oil pipeline development, railways, road and air services.
In an earlier interview, EAC Secretary General Richard Sezibera said poor infrastructure in the region had led to congestion at the main ports of Dar es Salaam and Mombasa, and had increased the cost of doing business in the region.
Last year, Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda signed a total of $605 million in new deals with investors, to boost their power projects.
Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi plan to share 80MW generated from the Rusumo Falls Hydropower Project, which received funding of $97.3 million from the African Development Fund and the Nigeria Trust Fund to finance transmission facilities.
In Burundi, last year the World Bank gave $70 million in loans and grants to fund the construction of two hydroelectricity dams with a combined capacity to generate 48MW.
The East Africa Railway Authority is expected to start the repair and construction of new railway lines at a cost of $29 billion, to fully inter-link the region within the next 10 years.
Rail and road
TradeMark East Africa Kenya Country Director Chris Kiptoo said the standard gauge railway from the port of Mombasa to Malaba will increase cargo being transported by rail from 3.5 per cent to about 40 per cent, and will also attract more investment into the sector.
“Almost 90 per cent of cargo is being transported by road from the port of Mombasa, which is putting much strain on roads and causing unnecessary damage,” said Dr Kiptoo. “The railway line is expected to reduce the cost of doing business in the country and the region.”
He called for the construction of a super highway from Mombasa to Kigali to create an efficient road transport system.