EDITORIAL: Marine transport needs to be tapped extensively

Early this week Rwandan and Tanzanian technocrats met to fast-track the joint Standard Gauge Railway project that is expected to drastically reduce the cost of transport from Dar es Salaam port.

The rail infrastructure in the region has in the past fallen victim to neglect but things are changing now. Unlike some of its neighbours, Rwanda never had any railway and its ambitious plan to link with the Tanzanian line is expected to cost it $1.3 billion.

The economic fortunes of many African countries were adversely affected by poor transport infrastructure. Even countries that had some decent networks before independence let them go to ruin and never looked back.

Water transport was left in a primitive state as countries failed to invest leaving vessels still in operation more or less floating coffins. Therefore the decision by Rwanda to also shift its attention on water transport, especially on Lake Kivu that is mostly home for dugout canoes, is like conquering new frontiers.

No less than four ports are in the pipeline and it is expected to boost cross-border trade with the Democratic Republic of Congo which already dominates the trade relations.

But maritime infrastructure will have to be revamped extensively. Navigation and Pilot courses will have to be introduced as well as the relevant safety, administrative, legislative and certification tools.

Water safety is one area countries of this region never tend to take seriously and every now and then disaster strikes and Lake Victoria takes the honours as being the most bloodthirsty.

But like in any successful venture, there is more to gain when the private sector joins hands with the Government and marine transport is there beckoning.