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Africa's on the move; time to get aboard that train

Wednesday, July 04, 2018 > 09:32:00
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The East African





On Tuesday this past week, three of the East African Community’s chiefs – Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, and Paul Kagame of Rwanda – met in Nairobi for a summit of the Northern Corridor Integration Projects.

You don’t hear much about the Northern Corridor these days. It is a trade and transport infrastructure corridor linking Burundi, DR Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, and South Sudan.

Therefore, a lot of things were said about infrastructure connecting the EAC countries.

Kenyatta reported that the standard gauge railway will soon reach the Kenyan-Uganda border town of Malaba, and Museveni thanked him for progress on the Kisumu port.

Museveni said Uganda is about to start construction of its section of the SGR, and that the electricity line to Rwanda is now 75 per cent done, and should be complete by October.

Two weeks earlier, an article in The Maritime Executive by Harry Valentine painted a fabulous picture of what an Africa with all the planned infrastructure would look like:

“China has invested in assisting several African nations to develop new businesses and is extending the port of Mombasa-Nairobi standard gauge railway line westward into Uganda. North of both Uganda and Ethiopia, discussions have been underway to convert railway lines in Sudan from the metre-gauge and Cape-gauge (3’ 6”) to the international gauge that already exists in Egypt.

“A railway line extends south from Khartoum along the Blue Nile and toward the border with Ethiopia and half-way to Addis Ababa. Connecting [an SGR] line between Khartoum and Addis Ababa would also provide a direct railway link between the Mediterranean Sea and the Gulf of Aden… a direct railway from Alexandria and Cairo to Khartoum and Addis Ababa promises to carry substantial trade.

“In southwestern Sudan, a railway line extends west toward the border with Chad while a northeastern Nigerian railway line extends east toward Chad… A direct railway line across Chad would allow trains to carry trade between [Nigeria and Egypt] via Khartoum.

“The port of Djibouti has the prospect of becoming the trading gateway for several African nations that will seek faster transit times for containers moving between Equatorial West Africa and Asian economies… There is potential for Mombasa to serve as a back-up port to Djibouti for trade between equatorial Africa and Asia, serving smaller ships if the [SGR] line from Mombasa extends to Uganda’s northwestern region and connects to the southernmost point of Sudan’s railway system. Such a link would provide trans-Africa railway access between Kenya and Nigeria as well as between Kenya and Egypt.”

The Northern Corridor is supposed to be a building block in that grand pan-African plan. In all, big and small, there are 20 such corridors envisioned in Africa.

Sounds like something inspired by Wakanda, the super-duper fictional country located in Africa in the blockbuster Black Panther superhero movie? Yes.

The record in achieving these corridor dreams has been dismal, but in both East and West Africa, the power of the people and trade is making them happen.

Rather than laugh, this once we will also say, if we can imagine these futures, then we can make them happen.


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