The East African Community is prioritising infrastructure development in the next fiscal year, signalling a break from a three-year lull blamed on the Covid-19 pandemic.
The EAC on Tuesday tabled before the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) budget estimates totalling $103,842,880 for 2023/2024, out of which 43 percent ($44 million), funded by development partners, will be used on infrastructure projects to spur intra-EAC trade, which increased by 13.4 percent to $74.03 billion in 2022 from $65.268 billion in 2021.
The bloc has this year secured funding for road projects connecting Kenya and Tanzania though Lunga Lunga; Tanzania to Burundi through Kasulu; and Kenya to Uganda through the Busia border. It has also prioritised railway, air and water/port transport.
“The secretariat will continue implementing successor multinational road projects linking partner states and the Phase II OSBP (One Stop Border Post) programme including the design, construction and operationalisation of prioritised OSBPs within the region to enhance regional integration and trade facilitation,” said council chair, Burundi’s minister for EAC affairs Ezechiel Nibigira.
The Kenya-Tanzania road sections are in different stages of completion after the two governments secured €375 million ($410 million) from the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the European Union (EU). But some remaining sections still need funding to connect the entire stretch of the coastal corridor.
“Construction of the multinational Tanzania/Burundi road: Kabingo-Kasulu-Manyovu (260 kilometres) in Tanzania and Gitaza-Rumonge (45km) in Burundi is ongoing following Burundi and Tanzania securing financing amounting to $322.35 million in the form of grants and loans from the AfDB,” said Dr Nibigira.
The EAC intends to carry out a feasibility study for the Kisumu – Kisian – Busia / Kakira – Malaba and Busitema Busia Expressway Project. It has secured $1.39 million from the AfDB.
On air transport, EAC partner states have signed a memorandum for implementation of the EAC Upper Air Space Seamless operations.
He said that procurement for the first phase of construction of the Mugina-Manyovu One Stop Border Post (OSBP) has begun.
“The Secretariat secured funding of $1.7 million from AfDB for carrying out the feasibility studies and detailed designs of the multinational Tanzania/Burundi: Uvinza – Kanyani / Rusengo – Gisuru – Bugarama roads. The feasibility and preliminary designs have been completed,” he said.
EAC Partner States are also implementing the established regional framework for handling Aircraft Accidents and Incidents Investigations, and operationalisation of the EAC Agreement on Aviation Search and Rescue.
In 2014, leaders from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, South Sudan and Rwanda broke the ground for the construction of SGR to link the member states with the view of boosting trade in the region. So far only Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Burundi have put in place plans to extend their railway lines across the borders.
In May 2023, Uganda announced the start of construction of the standard gauge railway starting August, a move that would see Kenya’s $2.39 billion project extend to Uganda.
Kenya’s phase two of the SGR, which would have cost $2.78 billion, stalled at Naivasha after China said Uganda must show commitment to constructing its section of the modern railway in order to give more funds for the extension from Naivasha to Malaba.
Tanzania plans to extend its railway line to Burundi and DRC.
Currently, the EAC is also in the process of harmonising laws on railway transport which are at different stages of development in each partner state.
The earmarked infrastructure projects are meant to spur intra-EAC trade, which increased by 13.4 percent to $74.03 billion in 2022 from $65.268 billion in 2021.
“In 2022, EAC total exports to the rest of the world were valued at $20.139 billion, while total imports from the rest of the world into the EAC amounted to $53.891 billion,” said Dr Nibigira.
Further, total Intra-EAC trade grew by 11.2 percent to $10.910 billion in 2022 from $9.810 billion in 2021.
The major Intra-EAC traded products are cereals, cement, iron and steel, live animals, petroleum products, sugar, foods and beverages among others.
“The Secretariat has continued to coordinate the development of multinational roads linking the Partner States including the construction of the 400km multinational Kenya/Tanzania road: Malindi – Lunga Lunga, and Tanga – Bagamoyo road, which is in progress.”
The 2023/2024 budget will focus on nine priority areas, namely: strengthening of regional governance processes, and domestication of regional and international commitments for sustainable peace and stability; increasing sensitisation, visibility, knowledge, awareness and participation of the private sector, citizens and other stakeholders in the EAC integration process, and; harmonisation of trade related policies, laws and regulations, and streamlining of customs and trade facilitation systems for increased trade and investment.