KIGALI - The regional master plan for transport and energy development must translate into viable infrastructure for the East African Community (EAC) to reap the benefits of regional integration.
This was said yesterday by Burundian President, Pierre Nkurunziza while addressing the East Africa Legislative Assembly (EALA) that is meeting in Kigali for its 4th session.
Nkurunziza addressed the regional legislators in his capacity as chairperson of the East African Community Heads of State Summit.
“We can no longer keep the plans in the drawers,” Nkurunziza said, adding that immediate action must be taken to develop energy sources to deal with power shortages that hamper regional industrialization.
“We are encouraged by development in some regional infrastructure such as the new railway extension from Isaka, Tanzania to Kigali, Rwanda and Keza-Musongati in Burundi,” he told the legislators at the parliamentary buildings.
“This is a significant signal that the region’s land is getting linked, which can be supported by similar air and maritime transportation projects”.
The Burundian President added that the importance of roads and railways that connect agricultural areas, markets and industries is an important ingredient to EAC integration.
“The focus to develop infrastructure should not be limited to regional interconnections; it must extend to improving national infrastructures in each of the partner states,” he urged.
Nkurunziza further urged member states to open their borders to ease regional trade, which is currently impended by non tariff barriers.
“The removal of non tariff barriers will indeed constitute a solid basis for the success of the monetary union, whose negotiations are underway,” he said.
Nkurunziza noted that one-stop border points must be put in place to enable free flow of goods and services across the regional borders.
“EAC is committed to the COMESA-EAC-SADC tripartite arrangement, focusing on establishing a free trade zone in the region,” he said.
The Burundian President pointed out that EAC economies are presently facing currency depreciation with serious repercussions on inflation, arising from recent droughts and the rise of fuel prices, due to the political conflicts in the Maghreb and Middle East.
“We have to accept that a larger internal market will create the much needed economic development in the region; it will improve living standards and as well create jobs for the youth who feel left behind in the economic performance of our countries,” Nkurunziza said.
After his address to the Assembly, President Nkurunziza launched the EALA Newsletter, which will provide basic information about ongoing integration projects.