|Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete: Tanzania President|
Now, the chickens, it seems, are coming home to roost. Events in the last two months vindicate my thesis, harsh as it was. Tanzania is slowly sliding to irrelevance in East Africa Common Market bloc- and further, stymying their country. In its place, “the northern wing,” is taking the lead.
The northern wing refers to countries that are members of the Northern transport Corridor. It all began with a meeting of the three Ks in east Africa in July. Presidents Kaguta Museveni, Paul Kagame and Uhuru Kenyatta met in Kampala to talk business. Tanzania was at the time hosting US President Barack Obama and therefore was not in the meeting.
Many an arm-chair analysts dismissed that meeting as a “sour grapes” summit by Presidents shunned by the US President. They were wrong! The three Ks were talking serious business and the world took note. First they agreed to build a 2937 KM standard gauge Railway line from the Port of Mombasa in Kenya to Kigali in Rwanda through Uganda of course. The project will cost an estimated US$13.5 billion. Read http://eaers.blogspot.com/2013/07/coming-soon-mombasa-kigali-express.html
Weeks later, Kenya Ports Authority opened a representative office in Kigali, while Uganda was allowed to open its customs office in Mombasa Port and collect her taxes from there. A week ago, the three Ks this time around joined by senior representations from, Burundi and South Sudan met in Mombasa to launch the 200,000TEUs berth 19 at the Port. Mombasa is being upgraded into mega port whose cargo handling capacity will rise to 2.1 million TEUs in 2016. This capacity will consign the Port of Dar-Es-salaam to oblivion. This is what we meant by Tanzania is losing out on the opportunities open in the bloc.
By the time of the Mombasa meeting, China had loaned Kenya a whopping US$5billion a large chunk of which - US$3.75 billion – will fund the construction of the railway line. Work is expected to begin in November, when the EAC heads of state will hold their Summit in Arusha.
|Mombasa Prot: Great threat to Dar Port|
Tanzania is not on this corridor and therefore could be rightly left out. However, the Port of Dar-es-salaam is an alternative sea route to several landlocked countries that such as Burundi, D R Congo, Rwanda and Uganda. The expansion of the Mombasa Port, coupled with the construction of the railway line poses a great danger to the Dar-Es-salaam Port. Four of the seven landlocked countries that use Dar are members of the Northern Corridor. Since these have also been roped in the “Mombasa- Kigali express,” they threaten business at the Dar Port. What is more, the” Mombasa- Kigali express” is now being extend to Bujumbura, Burundi and Juba in south Sudan. Tanzania should have been in the” Mombasa summit” to “negotiate” a branch line from Voi to Moshi to serve northern Tanzania. That is an opportunity lost, perhaps never to be recovered.
While the loss could improve efficiency at the Dar- port due to reduced demand, it could also be the first step towards oblivion for the Port. Kenyans have proven their capacity to deliver on their promises. Already another Mega Port, Lamu at the head of Lapsset Corridor is in the works, funds have been set aside to build the first three of the 32 berth port. Coupled with the Mombasa Port, the construction of the Lamu Port could easily reduce Tanzanian ports to a” standby ports” status.
So what’s the way forward? Tanzania has to wake up to the current realities, fold their sleeves and jump on the wagon. Being left behind could be disastrous. It could mean that Tanzania will have to initiate development of certain development projects alone.The decision by the club of four to even move ahead with the integration process without Tanzania could mean that Tanzania will always be playing the catch-up game. The time to get in is now.
The turn north is clear evidence that Land is not an issue here. In fact like concerns about the effect the sale of ATC to Kenya Airways on Tourism in Tanzania proved, their fears are unwarranted. Although Kenya Airways dominates the Nairobi-Zanzibar-Dar-Es-Salaam-Kilimanjaro route, tourism in Tanzania still thrives. Perhaps Tanzanians are still fighting the ghosts of fear.