Last week the East African Community (EAC) and the United States government signed an agreement, the basis of which is to support the development of transport infrastructure in the region. This is very good news for all development and cooperation-minded East Africans.
All East African states are dogged by great transport infrastructure challenges, be it lack of better and cheaper communication infrastructure, or lack of resources to build or improve on the existing networks. This pushes up the cost of development and cost of living unnecessarily, where it could have been manageable.
There has been a noticeable lack of railway transport network, for example, in almost all the regional states, except Kenya and to a lesser extent Tanzania, yet this cheaper means of transport would in the main address accessibility and cost concerns for the region’s peoples.
The road network is not any better. This paper has shown many times how Rwanda pays a heavier price by accessing the sea through Uganda and thence to Mombasa, a longer route as compared to the Kigali-Dar es Salaam access, all because this shorter route is impassable for heavy commercial goods vehicles.
It is good that the region has decided to tackle economic as well as social integration through recognizing the need for better transport infrastructure.
Common markets and other East African dreams will not need any further overt trumpeting, with people and goods moving very smoothly throughout the region.
To stretch a point, even security concerns will be addressed more swiftly as there will be more stakeholders than individual selfish concerns.
A case in point is the recent insecurity in Kenya following contested presidential poll results: all suffering regional communities applied pressure on Kenya to clean up its house because the riots were hurting the region’s economy.
The aviation industry will also face an overhaul, and this should be good news to businessmen and travellers alike, as it might mean more reliable and perhaps cheaper costs of travel.
It will not hurt the tourism industry either, as most countries in the region jockey for a bigger slice of the booming tourism industry.