Key private sector platforms, thought to include the East African Business Council, the East African Tourism Platform and national manufacturers’ associations are thought to be the target for an official invitation to become part of the Northern Corridor Integration Summits, effective from the March meeting planned for Kigali.
While key private sector players have in the past been at the venues and interacted with the various meetings of panel of experts, they were hitherto unable to fully participate in the ministerial meetings, where the final agenda for the Head of State Summits was put together.
A usually reliable source indicated that the next summit will commence in Kigali on the 04th of March with the respective expert groups meeting, before the ministerial takes place on the 06th of March and the four Heads of State meeting on the 07th of March at the Kigali Serena Conference Centre.
In the same communication was it confirmed that South Sudan’s telecommunications companies will by then be expected to have joined the ‘one network area’, removing roaming charges and treating calls into the other countries as domestic calls, something the three, Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya have already achieved.
Further information was however not forthcoming, if for instance South Sudan will join the common tourist Visa arrangements – not that under the present circumstances many if any tourists actually dare to visit that country – or if the travel rules, using ID cards for citizens when crossing the respective borders, can be made effective, considering that South Sudan does not have ID cards and may have to rely on voter’s cards or other forms if ID’s.
The cooperation presently involves over a dozen projects, most prominent among them the Standard Gauge Railway which will eventually link the port of Mombasa with Uganda and Rwanda and the regional refinery project in Uganda’s oil region which could refine enough crude to supply the entire region with ‘white fuels’.
A key representative from the tourism industry will be Waturi Wa Matu, the coordinator of the East African Tourism Platform, who will no doubt push for a number of issues to be finally resolved and operationalized in order to boost regional travel and make it more affordable. The summit was originally scheduled to take place in February but was pushed into early March following a meeting last week in Juba / South Sudan which brought various expert groups together to help shape the agenda for the Kigali meeting.