The Northern Corridor Integration Project (NCIP) countries yesterday started meetings ahead of a planned summit in Kampala to review progress achieved in the implementation of earmarked projects.
This is the 13th summit to convene leaders from Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda, who have since been joined by South Sudan.
The summit which is due to convene on Saturday, has been preceded by a technical meeting of senior regional officials, heads of institutions and permanent secretaries from the participating countries who will prepare a report on the progress for regional ministers.
Officials at the meeting represent all the four countries.
Ministers representing partner states will hold a session on Friday to review the report prepared by their countries’ technical teams after which they will present to the Heads of State.
Among other key areas that the officials are discussing include; the follow up on the development of regional ICT infrastructure and projects like the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) and oil refinery.
They are also discussing peace and security within the bloc.
Robert Ford, the Chief Coordinator of the Northern Corridor Technology Alliance (NCTA), said that negotiations for a Memorandum of Understanding between NCTA and NCIP had been concluded.
“The MoU will be signed during this summit. It’s going to be a benchmark that will guide the implementation of all technology projects in the four countries," he said.
The alliance seeks to take the lead in earmarking information and telecommunication projects without foreign involvement.
Ambassador Emmanuel Hatega, the Coordinator of NICP in Uganda said that the four countries are also working on a joint e –immigration system that will ease movement of travelers visiting NCIP countries, and increase value added services.
Hatega said that the three countries have agreed to give support to South Sudan in order to have the world’s youngest nation cope up with the speed of the other NCIP countries.
“You can’t expect a new born baby to walk immediately. But we are happy that this process will be easy and cheap for people to acquire Visas online,” he said.
Ford, who is also the vice president of the ICT chamber of the Private Sector Federation (PSF), added that, “the e-immigration system will act as bridge between two or more systems to enable easy communication even when they are in different languages.”
According to Ford, the Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRA) will also be signed during the summit.
“This will be for all professionals in the ICT sector in the four countries. This means that a Rwandan ICT engineer will now be free to go to South Sudan and treated just the same way a South Sudanese engineer is treated there. We have agreed to work and recognize one another,” he said.
The summit will also receive a report on the progress of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), which is envisaged to ease movement of cargo from the Port of Mombasa to these countries.
During the 12th Summit in Kigali last year, the Heads of State directed ministers to finalise preparation of bankable project proposals for the remaining sections on the Eastern, Western and Southern routes and Mirama-Kigali section.
Besides the members of NICP, other regional countries Burundi, Ethiopia and Tanzania are participating as observers.
Bodies such as East African Community (EAC), the Northern Corridor Transit Transport Coordination Authority and the Regional private sector will also be represented at the summit.