Last week, Nairobi was host to the 14th Northern Corridor Integration Projects (NCIP) Summit. This was the first time the Heads of State from Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda were meeting under the NCIP.
The renewed interest in the projects is a sign the countries involved may well resume the earlier momentum in implementing in NCIP.
The NCIP is a multilateral development initiative established in 2013 to speed up growth in the region through improvement of infrastructure for ease of movement of people, goods and services.
The host of the latest Summit, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, on Tuesday welcomed to the Summit Presidents Yoweri Kaguta Museveni of Uganda, Paul Kagame of Rwanda, in addition to Aggrey Tisa Sabuni, South Sudan’s Presidential Advisor on Economic Affairs. In attendance were also representatives of Burundi, DR Congo, Ethiopia and Tanzania.
The latest Summit reviewed the progress made in the implementation of various commitments under the Northern Corridor Integration Projects and, according to Peter Munya, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for EAC and Northern Corridor Development, “underscored the importance of accelerating socio-economic transformation, industrialization and creation of employment opportunities for the citizens.”
At the onset, NCIP Summits were regularly held at least four times a year but lately, there appeared to be a pause in the momentum. In April 2017, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Louise Mushikiwabo, said that despite the slowdown in the frequency of Summit-level meetings of the NCIP, the initiative was well and alive. At the time, the leaders had not met for a year, after the previous summit in April 2016 in Kampala, Uganda. There has just been a “slowdown” of NICP activities, she remarked, but “the spirit of the Northern Corridor initiative is well and alive.”
Earlier, what initially started as a tripartite initiative to speed up the flow of cargo, construction of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), crude oil pipeline and refined petroleum products pipeline, quickly expanded to include extra Clusters that handle ICT, oil refinery, financing, power generation, transmission and interconnectivity, commodity exchanges, human resource capacity building and land, among others.
A lot was discussed during the deliberations. Below are the top 10 highlights from the NCIP summit.
1. Close follow up on the projects
The Nairobi Summit decided to, again, hold the sessions once every four months as it was in the past. Respective Ministers were directed to ensure that cluster meetings are held once every two months to effectively follow up on the implementation of Summit directives.
President Kagame observed that “we had made even headways in bringing together our governments, the business people and investors, local and from abroad, in a kind of needed partnership to enable us realize these projects that are very important for the development of our region and our people.
Kagame added: “I know there is always going to be a lot of work to do. So, I think this moment provides us with an opportunity, again, to reexamine what we have done, what needs to be done, and how we can do that.”
2. Rwanda to host next summit
The Heads of State agreed to hold the next Summit in Kigali at a date to be communicated. The 12th Summit was held in Kigali in December 2015.
Every partner state has specific projects it coordinates and the projects coordinated by Rwanda are: immigration, tourism, trade, labour and services (ITTLS), the Single Customs Territory, defense cooperation, peace and security cooperation, and airspace management. Projects coordinated by Uganda are: standard gauge railway, ICT infrastructure, oil refinery development, fast-tracking political federation and financing. Kenya is charged with power generation, transmission and interconnectivity; crude oil pipeline development; refined petroleum products pipeline development; commodities exchange; human resource capacity building; and land. ]
3. Progress on the railway project (SGR)
The Summit lauded the completion and commissioning of the Mombasa–Nairobi section of the SGR which is transporting an increasing number of passengers and cargo. The construction of the Nairobi–Naivasha phase is at 50 percent completion. The leaders directed Ministers concerned to conclude financing agreements for the Naivasha-Kisumu, Kisumu-Malaba, Malaba-Kampala sections by September 2018. They further directed that application for financing of Kampala–Bihanga–Mirama–Kigali, Tororo-Gulu–Nimule/Gulu–Pakwach sections be expedited.
4. Updates on regional ICT Infrastructure
The Summit directed Partner States to expedite cross-border mobile financial services. In view of increased threats posed by cybercrime, the Summit directed that the MOU on Cyber Security be fully implemented. The Heads of States noted the progress on One Network Area (ONA) and directed Partner States to ensure full compliance by all Operators. Introduced in October 2014, the ONA aims to harmonise tariffs on mobile voice calls, SMS and data transmission within the wider EAC.
The Summit also directed Ministers of ICT from Partner State to consider establishing an East Africa Single Digital Market and a Partner States owned Communication Satellite. The leaders directed their respective Ministers to carry out feasibility studies on these projects.
5. Power generation and transmission
The Summit reviewed the status of development of the 220 kV and 400 kV transmission lines. The Heads of State directed the Ministers in charge of Energy, Lands, Finance and Attorneys General to address the outstanding issues on land acquisition, wayleaves, financing and contracting.
The Summit directed Partner States to formulate power exchange frameworks by September 2018 to facilitate power trade on a need basis. President Museveni said the electricity line to Rwanda through the Mirama Hills is now 75 percent complete. The target is to ensure that it is ready for commissioning by October this year.
6. The demand for skilled labour
The Summit underscored the importance of developing the requisite skills for critical infrastructures such as the SGR, oil pipelines and energy projects. In this regard, the Summit directed that Centres of Excellence be allocated adequate resources.
7. Movement of goods and people
The Heads of State noted the achievements made in the development of One-Stop Border Posts and the implementation of the East African Single Tourists Visa. The Head of States further noted the progress and importance of joint tourism marketing and directed the Partner States to sustain marketing initiatives.
8. Efficiency in clearing of goods
The Summit noted the progress made in the implementation of the Single Customs Territory (SCT) and observed that Partner States have rolled out all imports into the SCT leading to a significant reduction of the cost of doing business. The Summit directed the Partner States to fully roll out exports under the Single Customs Territory by September 2018. The Summit directed the Partner States to implement measures to ensure efficient clearance and movement of cargo from the Port of Mombasa.
9. Common air space
The Summit directed Ministers responsible for transport to expedite implementation of measures to enhance competitiveness and reduce the cost of air travel in the region. The Heads of States further directed Ministers responsible for transport to expedite signing and implementation of liberalized Air Service Agreements.
10. Defense, peace and security cooperation
The Heads of State considered and adopted the Accession Treaty to the Mutual Defence Pact. The Summit further directed Ministers of Defence to review the mechanism of admitting any other state to the Mutual Defence Pact. The Summit also called for the implementation of the adopted mechanism on cross-border and organized crimes.