Uganda joins other EAC states in discussions to fast-track start of SGR

Representatives from the East African Community member states gathered in Kampala on November 13, 2023 to discuss the implementation of the Standard Guage Railway (SGR) and other infrastructure projects. PHOTO/MICHAEL AGABA

What you need to know:

  • Officials from Kenya, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Uganda and South Sudan are in Kampala for a five-day discussion on how they will implement NCTTA.

Uganda and other East African countries have been urged to harmonise their policies so as to fast track the implementation of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) and other critical infrastructure projects.

Speaking during a meeting to discuss the implementation of the Northern Corridor Transit and Transport Agreement (NCTTA) senior World Bank transport specialist Ivan Emmanuel Mwondha decried high transportation costs in the East African Community (EAC), branding them “a hindrance to economic development.”

“At World Bank we have established that the cost of transportation on the Northern Corridor is about 1.8$ per kilometre per tonne, which is about 8 per cent above international average. This means our economic system is inefficient,” he observed.

“We have noticed that East Africa is now trading more with the Eastern Asia. That means that the Northern Corridor becomes a more pertinent route for integration,” he added.

Mwondha also emphasised that the potential GDP contribution for the Lake Victoria basin could be up to about $60 billion per annum through commodity trade “if we improve the connectivity across the lake.”

Officials from Kenya, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Uganda and South Sudan are in Kampala for a five-day discussion on how they will implement NCTTA, which seeks to facilitate transit cargo between the Kenyan port of Mombasa and the Member States.

The project includes construction of the SGR railway, oil pipeline, inland waterways and inland container depots and several interconnecting roads.

Canon Perez Wamburu, the SGR project coordinator, stressed that Uganda and Kenya officials will meet to harmonise standards, interconnectivity and interoperability of the railways project.

He revealed that Uganda is about to start construction of the SGR to link up with Kenya.

“What is going on right now is we are in the process of procuring a contractor called Yapi Merkezi from Turkey. In a few months’ time, we shall sign a contract with them after we have done negotiations next week,” he said.

“We hope maybe in this first quarter of next year, we should be able to start the actual construction of the SGR to join with the one coming from Kenya,” he added.

Meanwhile, Canon Wamburu also disclosed that Kenya has acquired funding from China to move its SGR railway line from Naivasha to Malaba.

Uganda’s state Minister for Transport Fred Byamukama, who opened the meeting, said the government of his country is committed to fund regional infrastructure projects.

“I therefore urge this meeting to come up with smart plans and strategies with clear timelines going forward for countries to reap from the integration of the Northern Corridor,” he remarked.

South Sudanese infrastructure minister Simon Mijok Mijak expressed eagerness for the country towards the Northern Corridor project.

Speaking of Monday’s meeting, NCTTA coordinator ambassador Richard Kabonero highlighted that: “We bring together the partner states of the Northern Corridor to deliberate particularly on three things; the framework is railway, the roads and the inland waterways. If we integrate all these projects, and we improve coordination, it will reduce our transport costs,” he said.