DR Congo joins Northern Corridor initiative projects

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has officially joined the Northern Corridor Integration Projects Initiative (NCIPI) during the just concluded eleventh heads of state summit that was held in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, yesterday.
President Paul Kagame being received by Kenya's Deputy President William Ruto for the 11th Northern Corridor Integration Projects (NCIP) Summit in Nairobi yesterday. The Democratic Republic of Congo announced that it would be joining the Northern Corridor Integration Projects as a full member during the next Summit. (Village Urugwiro)
President Paul Kagame being received by Kenya's Deputy President William Ruto for the 11th Northern Corridor Integration Projects (NCIP) Summit in Nairobi yesterday. The Democratic Republic of Congo announced that it would be joining the Northern Corridor Integration Projects as a full member during the next Summit. (Village Urugwiro)

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has officially joined the Northern Corridor Integration Projects Initiative (NCIPI) during the just concluded eleventh heads of state summit that was held in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, yesterday.

DR Congo’s Minister of Transport Justin Kalumba Mwana-Ngongo who attended the summit in Nairobi announced that his country was joining the hitherto, four-member alliance consisting of Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya and South Sudan.

Monique Mukaruliza, Rwanda’s coordinator of the NCIP, confirmed the development in a statement to Sunday Times yesterday.

“DRC has communicated that it has officially joined NCIP and will start with {being part of} the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) and other projects will follow,” Mukaruliza said in a statement.

The NCIPI was established following a meeting on June 25, 2013, in Entebbe by three Presidents, Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni, Rwanda’s Paul Kagame and Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta, to discuss how to cooperate and speed up development in the region.

South Sudan joined the initiative shortly after the initiative’s establishment; yesterday’s summit in Nairobi was the 11th time the leaders are meeting.

Rwandan leaders who attended the Nairobi summit lauded DR Congo’s entry in the NCIP calling it a significant development that will lead to consolidation of resources to bankroll the region’s ambitious infrastructural projects.

The Nairobi summit was also attended by Ethiopia, Burundi and private sector members from the four principle partner-states {Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya and South Sudan}.

In a statement, Rwanda’s Mukaruliza also indicated that Ethiopian representatives at the summit announced that the country will join NCIP in the near future.

Rwanda has important bilateral trade ties with both DRC and Ethiopia; the former is a leading destination of Rwanda’s exports and re-exports while the latter recently reached an agreement to supply Rwanda with 400mw of electricity to address the country’s current energy problem.

DRC entry welcomed

Rwanda’s Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Infrastructure, Christian Rwakunda, on phone from Nairobi, told Sunday Times yesterday that DRC’s joining is a major boost to the region’s efforts of collectively investing in infrastructure development to facilitate trade.

“The more the countries in NCIP the stronger the partnership and it’s all good for regional trade,” Rwakunda said.

DRC will reportedly be pushing for the SGR line to be extended to its territory from Uganda, a move that experts say will boost intra-regional trade.

In a tweet sent out on Friday, Rwanda’s Minister of foreign affairs, Louise Mushikiwabo described as ‘very good value addition’ the attendance of representatives of DRC and Ethiopia.

Meanwhile, John Bosco Kalisa, country director of TradeMark East Africa in South Sudan, said, “The most significant benefits will go to the citizens of this region, enhancing regional public goods such as roads through consolidation of resources for infrastructural development.”

Kalisa said DRC’s admittance into the initiative will also help strengthen governance, peace and security in the region. “Working together on development ventures helps unite countries, which will reduce conflicts in the region as countries can easily discuss and iron out their differences,” he said.

SGR on track

In his address at the summit, yesterday afternoon, President Kenyatta said the region must work towards forging closer partnerships with the aim of encouraging investment in some of the flagship projects such as the SGR.

“I'm impressed by the progress achieved so far however we must agree that measures instituted thus far are to a limited extent,” Kenyatta said.

During yesterday’s summit, Presidents of the four principle member states considered a report that was prepared by the NCIP ministerial committee regarding the progress of major projects.

The SGR remains the largest undertaking by the NCIP partners. The multi-billion dollar project will connect Mombasa to Malaba on the border with Uganda and continue to the Ugandan capital Kampala enroute to Kigali in Rwanda with a branch line to Juba in South Sudan.

According to the latest progress report on the project, it is on track and the entire line from Mombasa to Kigali is expected to be completed by 2018 and construction of the first leg from Mombasa to Malaba is underway.

Feasibility studies

The NCIP partner states are looking to, mainly China, to finance the multi-billion dollar SGR but previous meetings with Chinese officials have been hampered by the absence of completed feasibility studies of all sections of the project.

However, leaders heard at yesterday’s summit that ‘feasibility studies for all sections including Kampala – Kigali will be completed by December 2015’ which will pave way for more intensive negotiations with potential financiers of the project.

Earlier this year, in March, Uganda signed an Engineering Procurement and Construction (EPC) contract worth US$3.3billion, with a Chinese firm, China Harbor and Engineering Company (CHEC) for works on the Northern and Eastern routes.

CHEC which has also reportedly already submitted a bankable feasibility study for the Malaba-Kampala section of the SGR signed another deal with South Sudan for the engineering, procurement and construction of the Juba-Nimule section whose feasibility study is expected by December.

Public-Private partnership

For the first time since the NCIP summits begun, private sector representatives from the four principle partner states attended and actively contributed to the summit’s deliberations; leaders applauded their presence noting that it will boost private-public partnerships for the projects.

“I am delighted to note that our private sector has become an active player in the Northern Corridor Integration Projects,” said President Kenyatta who hosted the summit.

A day before the beginning of the summit, members of the Rwanda Private sector met and reached consensus on an agenda that they would collectively present to the leaders.

During their meeting, Benjamin Gasamagera, the chairman of Private Sector Federation noted that projects being implemented under the NCIP would ease trade within the region but called partner states to expedite their implementation.

The irony in Gasamagera’s call however is that, leaders of the partner states think, faster implementation of the projects require closer partnership and involvement of the private sector.

In a recent interview with Sunday Times, Dennis Karera, Chairman of the East African Business council said it’s encouraging to see that leaders have decided to bring the private sector on the same planning table to directly tap into their experience.

“This is commendable,” he said.

However, as a major challenge, and one that he hopes the NCIP partners can find a solution for, is the high cost of air transport in the region.

During their pre-summit meeting in Kigali, leaders of the private sector called on countries to work towards finding ways of bringing down the fairs to facilitate regional trade and boost integration.

But countries are already moving in that direction; recently, Kenya gave RwandAir fifth Freedom rights on the Entebbe-Nairobi-Entebbe route and similar rights on the Nairobi – Juba – Nairobi are currently under negotiations.

Under international commercial aviation, ‘fifth right’ refers to liberty to carry passengers from one's own country to a second country, and from that country to a third country.

The next NCIP summit will be held in Kigali during which partner states have agreed to officially sign the Bilateral Air services Agreements (BASA) that will liberalize international commercial air transport services between their territories.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

 

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