The Northern Corridor Integration Projects (NCIP) Summit previously scheduled for mid this month, in Kigali, has been postponed to early March.
Monique Mukaruliza, the national coordinator of the NCIP, yesterday told The New Times that the Summit is now scheduled for March 7.
She said during this time, leaders from Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda and South Sudan will look into how best to fast-track the implementation of the 14 projects envisaged to help transform fortunes of the Northern Corridor partner states.
The meeting usually has three sessions beginning with one in which senior officials, including permanent secretaries, heads of institutions and experts in various fields, make reports to submit to subsequent ministerial level session before the latter also report to the Heads of State.
According to Mukaruliza, the initial two-day session of experts and other senior government officials will start on March 4, followed by the ministerial deliberations on March 6, and the Summit on March 7.
“At every Summit, the Heads of State get reports on project implementation. In March, the Heads of State will again get updates on everything including the One Network Area which Uganda has recently joined,” she said.
The One Network Area is one of the integration projects under the NCIP framework. It enables people to make calls across the NCIP states free of roaming charges.
Uganda operationalised the system on January 2, while Rwanda and Kenya began implementation last year.
“We expect South Sudan to have joined by the next Summit. Various other achievements in other project areas will be presented by ministers. Currently, officials are meeting and will have a report ready by end of this month,” Mukaruliza said.
During last year’s Summit in Nairobi, Kenya, ministers were directed to ensure adequate representation, participation and adherence to set timelines in all cluster meetings and projects and complete their reports two weeks to the Summit.
Focus on the private sector
Ever since the NCIP framework was mooted, Mukaruliza said, the region’s private sector has always been engaged in many areas but during the Summit next month, this engagement will be taken to the next level.
“Previously, the private sector was always consulted, for example, in the single customs territory project but this time around, the private sector will be officially invited. We want them to be more involved and effective as we head into the implementation phase. We want them better understanding projects and investing in them. There is no need, really, of seeking foreign investors yet we have ours,” Mukaruliza said.
“Take the case of the oil refinery in Uganda. Investors from the region could also take part. There is a lot to be done. If, for example, we remove trade barriers, the private sector needs to know the changes and ably take advantage.”
Last year’s Summit, among others, appreciated the commitment made by partner states toward their participation in shareholding of the oil refinery project in Hoima, western Uganda.
During the Nairobi Summit, the Heads of State renewed their commitment to fast-tracking the implementation of the infrastructure projects.
Among the projects are the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) development; the Summit directed Ministers for Transport and Infrastructure to expedite ratification of the SGR Protocol and together with the Ministers of Finance, Infrastructure and Attorneys General or Ministry of Justice to jointly mobilise financing for NCIP and report to the next Summit.
Construction of the Mombasa–Nairobi Section started last year.