ON FRIDAY, East African Community (EAC) leaders met for the 5th Northern Corridor Integration Projects Summit in Nairobi during which they agreed on a wide range of issues, which if implemented, will not only take the bloc’s integration to another level but will have a significant impact on the lives of the ordinary East Africans.
The inauguration of a raft of joint infrastructure and integration projects during a meeting between Presidents Paul Kagame, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya in Entebbe, Uganda in June, 2013 heralded a new dawn for the EAC, instilling a sense of urgency in the integration agenda, with the improved livelihoods of the East Africans the ultimate objective.
Since then, the three Heads of State have held another four summits, with none of the three failing to turn up for a single meeting. And the Principals have agreed to meet for their 6th summit around the same time the initiative will have lasted for just one year – in June. That coupled with the incredible results on the ground that are beginning to be realised, is a testament that with sufficient political will, East Africans and, indeed, Africans can go all the way.
That the citizens of Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda could visit each other using just national IDs or voters/student cards as travel documents barely six months after the Presidents had agreed to the plan, as well as the significant drop in the number of days it took truckers to move goods from Kenya’s Mombasa port to Kampala and then Kigali, and the launch of the East Africa Single Tourist Visa – which effectively made the three countries single tourist destination – shows how much the citizens of the three partner states are already reaping from the initiative.
Yet going by the decisions that were taken in the Nairobi summit last week, it is safe to suggest that the benefits the residents of the participating countries have hitherto enjoyed are a drop in the ocean.
The Principals’ explicit commitment to the faster progress in several ongoing integration projects such as power generation, transmission and interconnectivity; petroleum products pipeline development; communication; and Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) development is an indication that the future of EAC can only get brighter.
And the inclusion of South Sudan and lately, Burundi, with Tanzania also involved albeit at a minimum level shows that all East Africans and their neighbours will ultimately benefit from this renewed commitment to the EAC integration.