The three heads of state with ambassadors and the event?s main sponsors at Speke Resort Munyonyo

The three heads of state with ambassadors and the event?s main sponsors at Speke Resort Munyonyo

The Presidents made the commitment at the Heads of State dinner organised by the private sector from the three countries at Speke Resort Munyonyo on Friday.

They met at the 10th Northern Corridor Integration Projects Summit Saturday to discuss development projects.

The Northern Corridor is the transport link connecting Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan and Kenya. President Kagame revealed that all the leaders had political will to drive regional integration and development projects but said political will must be matched with action.

?We cannot be faulted as leaders of East Africa or the northern corridor for lack of political will. I think there is plenty of political will,? Kagame said.

?With political will, there are a number of things we need to look at: do we need to plan, have a sense of urgency or do we want to execute without wasting time?? Kagame said the region must deal with bureaucracy that is prevalent in not only government but also the private sector, in order to fast-track development projects.

The Northern Corridor Integration Projects initiative is designed to generate sustainable political will necessary to fast track the implementation of the projects identified.

The heads of state dinner was convened to highlight the opportunities for the private sector to participate in the northern corridor integration projects.

President Kenyatta said the three heads of state of Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya had lived to their target of meeting every two months to review progress on the northern corridor.

He said the governments should create an enabling environment and facilitate the private sector to undertake development projects, instead of struggling to do them with limited resources.

?We are not short of capital, yet every day, as governments, we struggle to raise capital, with the belief that government must do every project,? Kenyatta said.

?We have our own pension funds and schemes that we put into useless projects. We do not lack capital. What we need is to facilitate the private sector to get capital for the projects.?

Museveni promised that the private sector would be involved as partners in discussions about the development projects in the region.

?Since we are pursuing strategies of private-sector growth, the private sector must be involved in the discussions. These are the people who are creating wealth,? Museveni said.

He, however, argued that private investment in projects like electricity and the railway were not tenable and may sabotage economic development by raising costs to make profit.

He cited the high costs of constructing Bujagali Hydropower dam leading to a unit cost of 11 US cents for power, saying such high production costs would likely inhibit manufacturing.

Museveni also said the sale of Uganda Commercial Bank (UCB) was on account that it would help lower interest rates and improve efficiency.

?When we privatised UCB, we were told that it was inefficient and was being managed by bureaucrats, who gave out bad loans and interest rates were high. When I have time, I would like to hear from Stanbic Bank why interest rates are still high.?

Narrating the bottlenecks of private investment in the region, Patrick Mweheire, Stanbic Bank Uganda?s managing director decried the bureaucracy in clearing investments.

?Between 5% and 10% of project funds are spent on feasibility studies and when that happens, it is a wrong signal to the private sector,? Muheirwe said.

Richard Kaijuka, the vice chairperson of the Uganda Chamber of Mines and Petroleum, appealed to the regional leaders to provide a quota for local manufacturers.

Meetings of ministers and technical experts from Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia, South Sudan and the DRC region met on Thursday and Friday, respectively to discuss projects.

The heads of state are expected to sign an agreement on the total liberalization of labour and services and launch a website (portal) for the northern corridor projects.

Under the northern corridor summits, partner countries have so far agreed on the removal of nontariff barriers to reduce the cost of doing business and established a One Network Areas where roaming charges on voice calls have been harmonised and drastically reduced.

By Taddeo Bwambale & David Mugabe, The New Vision

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