I am honored to be here with this team on whose shoulders rest our hopes for a speedy integration of the Continent.
Let me state from the onset that I recognize and appreciate the work you have done and continue to do and the efforts you put in mainstreaming infrastructure as a tool for Africa’s integration.
That we will never grow or prosper without good transport connections is now well understood.
That is why we are all agreed on the need for a policy to put in place a powerful regional and continental transport network across the 54 States to promote growth and competitiveness. We are agreed that we must connect East with West and North with South.
As a pan-Africanist, I am extremely gratified that the subject of intra-African trade and integration is becoming a common subject on the lips of both the political class and technocrats across the continent.
In recent years, all our governments have made bold commitments to pursue this integration agenda.
As you are all aware, the idea of a united Africa is as old as the Continent itself.
I therefore want to encourage each of you to see yourselves as critical players in the final lap of a historic race that our fathers started but never got to finish.
The dream now looks more real than ever. We have to pursue it with pride and a sense of history and duty.
As members and officials of the Northern Corridor Transit and Transport Authority, you have your work cut out for you with regard to creating an interconnected Continent that trades with itself and depends less on aid.
You have to transform the trade route into an economic development corridor. You will do it by promoting efficient, inclusive and competitive transport by road, air, rail, pipelines, and inland waterways and through efficient customs and border controls.
The Northern Corridor Transit and Transport Agreement (NCTTA) treaty with its 11 protocols was signed in 1985 and revised in 2007 to facilitate regional cooperation with a view to facilitating interstate and transit trade. Some progress has been made. The question we now need to address is; where are we today? How have we faired?
We have to agree that implementation of the commitments is still wanting.
The Northern Corridor road network in all six Member States is approximately 14,108Km in length. To date, only about 28.4 per cent of the road network is in good condition. That is a pointer to the existence of problems with our goals. Many sections of this corridor, like the Mbarara-Kisangani highway, Bangui-Kisangani-Kampala and Kisangani-Bujumbura corridors to mention a few have not gone past bilateral talks with donors or are stuck at Joint Technical Committees.
The coming of the Standard Gauge Railway Phase One from Mombasa to Nairobi has moved some five million tonnes of freight and three million passengers off the roads. However, the bulk of imports and exports destined to and from countries in the Corridor are still transported by road. Less than 4 per cent of the cargo transported along the Northern corridor relies on rail transport because our commitments here are running late too.
Kenya is prioritizing the Construction of SGR Phase 2A, which is a 120 kilometre stretch from Nairobi through Mai Mahiu to Naivasha. The project successful completion date is set for 30th September 2019. But it is a line to nowhere if other Northern Corridor states don’t complete their sections.
It would appear that national priorities are still taking precedence over regional and continental dreams.
Member States have not prioritized improving the quality of transport networks in order to improve the regional trade, investments and trade and spur economic development along the region.
The Northern Corridor Transit and Transport Coordination Authority needs to move with speed and fast track the improvement of existing meter gauge lines and the development of the Standard Gauge Railway for all Northern Corridor Member States.
Kenya and Uganda had undertaken to rehabilitate sections of the meter gauge railway network. However, some of these rehabilitation projects were overtaken by the commissioning of the Standard Gauge Railway. Our member states need to move with speed to jointly develop the SGR as a regional project.
We have seen commendable efforts in development of port infrastructure and inland waterways within the Northern Corridor.
There is commendable progress with regard to studies on safety and improvement of navigability of our inland waterways.
In Kenya, we have prioritized the renovation of the Kisumu Port with capacity for 600,000 tonnes and the expansion and modernization of the Nairobi Inland Container Depot with capacity for 405,000 TEUs.
A successful renovation and opening of Kisumu port will be a big boost to the Northern Corridor.
As we know, Lake Victoria is the primary inland waterway servicing both the central and northern corridors with capacity link East Africa to the Atlantic Ocean via River Congo.
I am aware that similar port upgrade activities are going on or are planned for Port Bell, Bujumbura and Kisangani. There is equally good potential in lakes Albert, Edward, Kivu, and Tanganyika, and the Kagera and Nile rivers which need to be harnessed.
Development of the petroleum product pipeline from Eldoret to Kigali through Kampala has been unable to proceed as a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) project. We need speed from the Ministries of finance in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda who have been directed to source financing for this project.
In all cases of development planning at regional or continental level, there is always conflict between national and regional priorities.
Integration or lack of it is often the outcome of regional politics. It requires goodwill.
The point we often miss is that a number of our national priorities could be solved through greater integration. Delivery of infrastructure on a regional scale remains a sure bet to spur trade and manufacturing that creates jobs. Today, we have 16 landlocked countries on the Continent, which we have to open up and help achieve the economies of scale and be competitive internationally.
No amount of planning at national level will open them up. Only regional integration will link them to the external world and open them up for trade and investment.
We must find ways to maximize the synergies among our state and the sub-regional bodies to speed up regional connectivity. This is especially important in the area of financing of regional infrastructure projects, which appears to be a problem.
It is not possible to finance transnational infrastructure projects solely from national budgets. That is a fact. We must therefore court and nurture public-private partnerships (PPPs) and other new funding schemes.
Many of our countries are struggling to meet the requirements for their own domestic infrastructure development.
This means there is a wide financing gap for the private sector to fill in not just in the Northern Corridor but across Africa.
For us to attract PPPs, we have to work on a joint enabling environment. This will include common legal and governance frameworks. In some cases, these exist on paper but are being frustrated by old bureaucracies or nationalist feelings. There cannot be a shortage of capital to finance our infrastructure needs given the renewed interest on Africa. We are at that point and that moment where investors and governments across the world realize that they have something to gain from a prosperous Africa. They are looking for our success in upgrading our infrastructure and they have an interest in working with us and with private contractors to contribute to success.
We are seeing significant improvements in our fiscal policies and in key economic sectors. There are prospects for overall economic recovery and the political leadership is looking ready to embrace far reaching commitments to turn these promises into reality. But such moments never last forever; and we are not the only region or continent plotting a takeoff. Our challenge is to seize the moment while it is with us. Our challenge is to implement strong legal and regulatory frameworks that are in harmony across member states.
Then we will need to work closely and transparently with our development partners and multilateral agencies to facilitate PPPs and other new funding schemes.
As we invest in the infrastructure of transport, we also have to invest in peace, security and political stability if regionalism has to take off or bear fruits.
Many parts of Africa remain unreachable because of years of war that either destroyed existing infrastructure or made it impossible for regimes to invest in infrastructure.
In the end, what will make our efforts succeed is our faith that a more integrated and connected Africa will be a stronger player in global affairs and a master of its fate and destiny.
*Above is the text of a speech by H.E RAILA ODINGA, EGH, AT THE 31ST MEETING OF THE NCTTCA COUNCIL OF MINISTERS.