Think better roads, rail system for East African region

If wishes were horses, then you can be sure that almost everyone would wish that the Great Lakes Region had very good infrastructure, especially the transport sector. This wish comes because of the suffering of the people in countries neighbouring Kenya who are facing a crisis of lack of goods flowing from Mombasa, due to the insecurity posed by hordes of Kenyans protesting the electoral commission’s declaration of Mwai Kibaki as winner of the December presidential polls.

If wishes were horses, then you can be sure that almost everyone would wish that the Great Lakes Region had very good infrastructure, especially the transport sector. This wish comes because of the suffering of the people in countries neighbouring Kenya who are facing a crisis of lack of goods flowing from Mombasa, due to the insecurity posed by hordes of Kenyans protesting the electoral commission’s declaration of Mwai Kibaki as winner of the December presidential polls.

There is great scarcity of fuel and basic goods manufactured by Kenya’s vast industrial complex, and even goods that come from overseas via Mombasa port. There is distress in both Uganda, and lately, here in Rwanda – countries that almost solely depend on the great port of Mombasa for various supplies.

Now Rwanda’s Protais Mitali, Minister for Industry and Trade, has negotiated a transport agreement with his Tanzanian counterpart, Basil Mramba, which will enable Rwanda to use Dar es Salaam’s port to import petroleum products. This port is much further than Mombasa and therefore more expensive, but this is better than hoping for a faster return to normalcy in Kenya which is still out of sight, and is commendable. Half a loaf is better than none indeed.

And this where the wish comes alive. It is possible that the journey, though longer, would certainly be done in fewer days and therefore less cheaply if the roads were in good condition. But almost all main roads in the East African region, barring a few short stretches and those inside Rwanda, are bad. This makes transporting people and goods across regions a nightmare. One does a journey only when they really have to do it – at the great detriment of trade and cooperation.

Then there is this railway dream. Just imagine if there was a connection from Mwanza to Kigali, and then through to Kasese in Uganda. Mobility would be so much simpler, and faster.

We hope that the EAC regional heads will combine efforts to improve communication systems in the whole region as a matter of priority, and not promote only the telecommunication sector at the expense of good roads and the railway.

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