ARUSHA - President Paul Kagame has said that the launch of the new Arusha – Namanga – Athi River road development project signifies an important milestone in the region’s integration process.
Addressing thousands of people at the launch of the road in Lengijave, a village in Arusha Tanzania yesterday, Kagame was upbeat that upon completion, the road would lead to greater trade and investment in the region.
“The East African road network project, sets the stage for realizing our strategic development objectives and I have no doubt that this project will substantially improve our supply side capacities as we strive to make our industries and the region in general more competitive,” the President, who is also the current Chairperson of the EAC Heads of State Summit said.
The road forms part of the priority corridor (number five) of the EAC Regional Roads Network which spans from Tunduma in southern Tanzania to Moyale in northern Kenya, and onward to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Kagame and his four other counterparts of EAC Partner States arrived at the launching ground in a minibus, attracting thunderous applauses from the gathering that dared a heavy downpour.
The President cautioned public officials in customs, immigration and police from the two countries that share the road, Tanzania and Kenya, to work hard and facilitate the smooth movement of people, goods and services along the modernised corridor.
“We look to them to prevent actions that may undermine its optimal use or prosperity creation and development,” he said, adding that once highway is completed, it would attract bigger volumes of trade and tourists.
He congratulated the people and governments of Kenya and Tanzania upon the new project, and thanked the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) that funded the construction of the road.
In his speech, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete said that there was need to review the East African road network plan to include Rwanda and Burundi.
He said that while the first planning phase only catered for development of roads into the two countries, it didn’t address those that originate from the two countries.
On his part, Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki expressed optimism that the road would create a positive impact in the region in the areas of agriculture, tourism and trade.
He called for an expeditious completion of the construction works and rapid implementation of other infrastructure projects in the region.
AfDB President Donald Kaberuka said that the bank is a strong supporter of infrastructure development in Eastern Africa and that $3billion has been committed to its infrastructural development.
“We are committed to this corridor as we are for the Central corridor, the Northern Corridor and other EAC driven infrastructure programmes,” he said.
Construction on the Athi River – Namanga Section (Kenya) commenced in November 2007, while on the Arusha – Namanga Section (Tanzania) works started in September 2008.
Works on the Kenyan side are expected to be completed by November 2010 while the Tanzanian side is supposed to be completed by July 2011.