EAC leaders urge faster integration


President Kagame with Presidents Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Tanzania's Jakaya Kikwete, Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, Salva Kiir Mayardit of South Sudan, Burundi's Second Vice President Gervais Rufyikiri, Ethiopia's Minister for Foreign Affairs Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and EAC Secretary General Richard Sezibera. (Village Urugwiro)

East African Heads of State have commended achievements made under the Northern Corridor Integration Projects (NCIP) initiative and advocated for faster integration of the region to bring about prosperity.

Presidents Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Tanzania’s Jakaya Kikwete, Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, Salva Kiir Mayardit of South Sudan and Burundi’s Second Vice President Gervais Rufyikiri as well as Ethiopia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, joined President Paul Kagame in Kigali yesterday for the 9th NCIP summit.

Less than two years since the northern corridor meetings began, fourteen projects including infrastructure, energy, transport, ICT and trade have been launched.

Recent achievements of the Northern Corridor Integration Projects include the improved free movement of people and labour, the use of Identity Cards as travel documents, the establishment of One Network Area, the one visa for tourists coming to Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda and the waiver of work permits for EAC citizens in the northern corridor.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta receives a banquet of flowers from a young boy on arrival at Kigali International Airport yesterday. (John Mbanda)

Rwanda and Uganda also ratified peace and security pact that will soon be extended to Kenya to ensure the three countries work together to prevent and resolve conflicts.

Opening the summit, President Kagame emphasized the importance of maintaining the momentum:

“The results we have achieved together so far should motivate us to do more and faster. With political will and prompt follow-through, we can achieve the tangible results the people of our region need and deserve,” Kagame said.

President Kenyatta argued that East African nations should not be importing from elsewhere when a surplus exists within the region and added that with a common market, nations have no reason not to be manufacturing its own cars or textiles among others. “ We can create a region that has a strong voice on a global scale and is an attractive place for investment,” Kenyatta added.

Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete is welcomed by Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo at Kigali International Airport. (John Mbanda)

Speaking on behalf of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, Ethiopia’s Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus described the NCIP as an example of integration on the African continent.

During last year’s NCIP Heads of State summit in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, heads of state renewed their commitment to fast-tracking the implementation of infrastructure projects, including the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) for which they directed Ministers of Finance, Infrastructure and Attorneys General or Ministers of Justice to jointly mobilise financing, as well as completing agreements on power purchasing and work on building electricity transmission lines.

“The Heads of State noted with appreciation the progress in the implementation of the various projects under the Northern Corridor Initiative, and reiterated their collective resolve to continuously work together in pursuit of the set vision and goals of fast-tracking the integration process, for the benefit of the citizenry of the Northern Corridor Region,” the Presidents said in a final communiqué issued after the summit.

The President of South Sudan Salva Kiir (L) with Trade and Industry Minister Kanimba upon arrival at Kigali International Airport yesterday. (John Mbanda)

They also welcomed the announcement by Burundi to “end its observer status” and fully participate in the Northern Corridor Integration Projects Initiative.

“Our people benefited from the progress and my government appreciates and supports all the efforts made in the interest of the people of our region. I would like to announce to you that the period in which Burundi participated as an observer is finished. We are now fully participating,” Burundi’s Second Vice President Gervais Rufyikiri said.

The 9th Northern Corridor Integration Projects Summit also marked the first meeting involving members of the private sector. The Heads of State resolved to facilitate a stronger partnership with the private sector including through financing the Northern Corridor projects.

The next NCIP Summit will be held in Uganda within the next two months.