MOMBASA, Kenya, July 26 (Xinhua) -- Eastern African countries should hasten the development of railway and waterways as a means of transporting goods from Kenya's port city of Mombasa to help free up the roads, the Africa Union envoy said on Friday.
Raila Odinga, AU high representative for infrastructure development in Africa, called on the Northern Corridor states- Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and South Sudan to prioritize the completion of road sections that will see seamless connectivity across the region to ease trade and movement of people.
"The point we often miss is that a number of our national priorities could be solved through greater integration. Delivery of infrastructure on a regional scale remains a sure bet to spur trade and manufacturing that creates jobs," Odinga said while addressing the 31st meeting of the Northern Corridor Transit and Transport Coordination Authority Council of Ministers in Mombasa.
"Today, we have 16 landlocked countries on the continent, which we have to open up and help achieve the economies of scale and be competitive internationally," he added.
Odinga said that while the coming of the Chinese-built Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) Phase One from Mombasa to Nairobi has moved some 5 million tonnes of freight and 3 million passengers off the roads, the bulk of imports and exports destined to and from countries in the Corridor are still transported by road.
He said Kenya is prioritizing the Construction of SGR Phase 2A-a 120 kilometre stretch from Nairobi through Mai Mahiu to Naivasha, whose successful completion date is set for Sept. 100.
But he worried that it would be a line to nowhere if other Northern Corridor states don't complete their sections.
"It would appear that national priorities are still taking precedence over regional and continental dreams. Member States have not prioritized improving the quality of transport networks in order to improve the regional trade, investments and trade and spur economic development along the region," Odinga said.
He appealed to the Northern Corridor Transit and Transport Coordination Authority to move with speed and fast track the improvement of existing meter gauge lines and the development of the SGR for all Northern Corridor member states.
The AU envoy said Kenya has prioritized the renovation of the Kisumu Port whose successful renovation and opening of Kisumu port will be a big boost to the Northern Corridor.
He called for similar developments on lakes Albert, Edward, Kivu, and Tanganyika, and the Kagera and Nile rivers.
"We have seen commendable efforts in development of port infrastructure and inland waterways within the Northern Corridor. There is commendable progress with regard to studies on safety and improvement of navigability of our inland waterways," Odinga said.
He said development of the petroleum product pipeline from Eldoret in northwest Kenya to Kigali, Rwanda through Kampala, Uganda, has been unable to proceed as a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) project.
"We need speed from the Ministries of finance in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda who have been directed to source financing for this project," Odinga said.