By Frank Lukwago New Vision/NECJOGHA
Kampala, Uganda – Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and Rwanda have agreed to build new ports and refurbish the existing ones on Lake Victoria to support movement of passengers and cargo to access the international market.
They also agreed to speed up the projects such as Bukasa port, which is in its preliminary stages of construction on Ugandan side of the lake.
The works ministers from East African region said the potential of the shared lake is largely untapped yet it can significantly contribute to the region’s rapid economic transformation.
This was during the Lake Victoria integrated transport project consultative meeting, chaired by Uganda’s works minister Monica Azuba at hotel Africana in Kampala on Friday.
The proposed projects include port Bell, Jinja port and Bukasa in Uganda, Kisumu port in Kenya, Mwanza port, Musoma port and Kemondo bay in Tanzania. Some are old ports which are being refurbished while others are new facilities.
Other transport infrastructural projects Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania have proposed to build are oil jetties, marine vessels, port reception facilities, as well as building and upgrading standard and meter gauge railway line.
Azuba said water transport is of great importance to many communities, especially those living around lakes and navigable rivers.
She said improved water transport facilities could widen marketing and trading opportunities, help to augment cash incomes, improve cash incomes, improve health and education facilities and contribute to alleviations of poverty.
Tanzania works minister Eng. Isaac Kamwelwe said: “Tanzania is working on a number of projects to support development of the transport system in the region and welcomes this initiative of undertaking joint projects on Lake Victoria.”
The Kenyan cabinet secretary for transport, James Macharia, said the ports to be developed should also be linked to the Indian Ocean through Dar-es-salaam and Mombasa.
“Even if we develop these ports without linking them to the international market by developing Mombasa and dar-es-salaam ports, they would be strained,
“There should be rail links, for example, between Mombasa and Kisumu,” he said.
Macharia said the development of the standard gauge railway (SGR) is significant to success of the planned port. He said the Kenyan government is refurbishing the infrastructure in Kisumu on Lake Victoria, which had been abandoned for decades.
“We have started rehabilitating transport vessels and we have also a marine school at Kisumu,” Macharia said.
Maj.Gen (rtd) fank mugambage, the Rwandan High Commissioner to Uganda, said the proposed infrastructural projects on the lakes should be executed urgently because they will change the way of doing business in the region.
“We can fly with Uganda Air, Kenya Air and Rwandan Air but we have to develop water transport to move cargo because it’s cheaper,” he said.
The three countries resolved to invite Burundi to take part in the implementation of the proposed projects. They have also agreed to invite DR Congo and South Sudan to participate as observers.
They constituted a technical team that will review their resolutions during a regional meeting in January 2020.