President Paul Kagame yesterday commended the integration spirit exhibited by the Kenyan government, which is demonstrated in the country’s commitment to regional infrastructure projects that will benefit the East Africans.
Kagame said this as he joined Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda to officially open Berth 19 at Kenya’s Mombasa Port, which is expected to improve cargo handling at the facility by 30 per cent.
The berth is a designated site where ships dock or anchor, load or offload.
Linked to an associated stacking yard covering an approximate area of 15 acres, the berth will give Kenya Ports Authority an additional container holding capacity of 200,000 standard sized containers per year.
“The people of Rwanda are looking forward to working with you to promote regional integration,” said President Kagame.
“I thank the leadership and the people of Kenya for hitting ground running with agenda of integrated EAC and development of infrastructure the development of infrastructure here is going to serve the people of East Africa and beyond.”
The facility was constructed at a cost of $66.7 million.
Mombasa Port is one of the main gateways for Rwandan imports and exports. The port also serves Uganda, Burundi and Eastern DRC.
“Rwandans waited for long what we witnessed today; I am sure they will be happy (for) the infrastructure here,” Kagame said, adding that the improved capacity of the facility means that people of East Africa and beyond will be served better.
The 240 metre-long berth is expected to reduce congestion at the port and improve the effectiveness at the region’s biggest wharf.
Kagame further reiterated Rwanda’s commitment to strengthening cooperation with the other EAC partner states to promote the integration agenda.
President Museveni, who is the chairman of the East African Community, said the Port was critical in assisting producers of goods and services in the region to access local and international markets.
He challenged regional states to unite in a bid to create a bigger market for regional products and services as well as consolidate their bargaining power with major global economies and trading blocs.
President Kenyatta said that his government will sustain the efforts to remove all non-tariff barriers that hinder the movement of goods from the port to the hinterland, saying this would promote regional investments.
“We are the custodian of the gateway to East Africa; our regional brothers and sisters depend on us to ensure they never suffer the unnecessary inconveniences or inefficiency or corruption on this port. As Kenyans we must embrace professionalism and integrity and this is for our benefit as well as our neighbours. In serving others we profit the most,” said Kenyatta.
He added that the port is critical to regional development, which he said his government is committed to promote.
“We are looking for efficiency in order to reduce trade barriers and to improve opportunities for our country. This port is critical to our region’s development and commissioning of Berth 19 represents the pragmatic aspects of my government’s commitment,” President Kenyatta said.
“It is my Government’s manifest intention to turn the Port of Mombasa into the largest, busiest and most business-friendly sea-port on the East African coast.”
He observed that for the port to operate effectively, it requires a well developed railway and road network promising that his government was ready to embark on developing the railway line connecting Mombasa and regional countries.
Plans are in the pipeline, under what has been called the trilateral framework between Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya, to establish a railway line from Mombasa to Kigali through Kampala.
Speaking at the event, President Museveni urged regional manufacturers to seize the opportunity to export more goods, saying that the facility should not be exclusively used to receive imports.
The heads of state were also expected to deliberate on the financing of the trilaterally agreed infrastructure projects, especially the railway line and the Mombasa-Eldoret-Kampala-Kigali oil pipeline.
The summit follows the June Entebbe joint meeting where the heads of state agreed to fast-track some regional projects.