Wednesday, 26 February 2014

A Jacob-Esau type rivalry in east Africa

Presidents of Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda.
These three think on their feet
SIBLING RIVALRY is at the heart of Tanzania’s laggard attitude towards EAC integration, we can report. Tanzania, the second largest economy in the region harbours ambitions of being a super power in the region.
Kenya, the largest economy in the bloc holds that position.  For Tanzania overtaking Kenya is an uphill task for it requires huge investments in infrastructure, diversification of the economy and investment in personnel. That cannot be attained in a year or so. It needs decades. 
Although at some point, Tanzania appeared set for the target when she discovered natural gas. But that advantage was quickly erased when Kenya also discovered oil. Now, it seems, the battle for supremacy will be won or lost on transport infrastructure.And to win the battle on this front needs decisive and firm action.

 Kenya is the hub of economic activity in east Africa. Consequently, its transport infrastructure is relatively efficient. Kenya is the gateway to the world market for her neighbours to wit; D.R Congo, Uganda, Rwanda and south Sudan through the Northern Corridor. Four of these neighbours namely D.R. Congo Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi can also in theory access the world Market through the central Corridor, which ends at the Dar-Es-Salaam port in Tanzania.

The central transport corridor traverses Tanzania linking her to Burundi, Rwanda, D.R. Congo and Uganda.  On the other hand, the northern Corridor traverses Kenya, from the Mombasa Port also to Burundi through Uganda and Rwanda.
However, Northern corridor is more efficient and reliable and attracts more business attracting all neighbours to use it as a transit route. The northern corridor is the busiest and most competitive route in east Africa, says State of East African Infrastructure, a publication of Africa Development Bank
The Mombasa Port handled some 20 million tons of freight last year about 60 per cent of this tonnage was destined for the neighbouring countries. According to Kenyan officials, transit cargo via Kenya to her neighbours grows by 10 per cent a year.  
Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete

Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda have agreed to remove Non-tariff barriers which immediately improved efficiency at the Mombasa Port. As recently as August last year before the administrative measures were put in place, Imports to Kampala through the Mombasa Port took 15 days to reach Kampala and 22 days to reach Rwanda. Now it takes 4 days to Kampala and five days to Kigali, a 400 per cent improvement.
According to the AFDB report, inefficiency at the Central corridor forces traders in Burundi and D.R Congo to use the efficient Northern corridor. The report says that imports to Burundi through Dar-Es Salaam take 33 days to reach their destination.  They take 29 days to travel through the Port of Mombasa. Of the 33 days, clearing through the Port of Dar-Es-Salaam takes 25 days, it takes 21 days to clear through the Mombasa Port. 
That was before the Northern corridor agreement which improved efficiency.
 The agreement involved allowing Rwanda’s and Uganda’s to open customs office in Mombasa Port and collect their taxes from there.  That eliminated the border checks in Malaba on the Kenya Uganda border and also on the border with Rwanda. To add to the efficiency of the Northern corridor, last August, the Mombasa Port launched the 200,000TEUs berth 19. Mombasa is being upgraded into mega port whose cargo handling capacity will rise to 2.1 million TEUs in 2016.

 The central Corridor which originates from Dar-Es-salaam Port is an alternative route to the Northern Transport Corridor. However, to compete with its rival, the corridor needs massive investment.


A report released in April 2013 by the Africa Development Bank shows that the central corridor is scantly used due to the fact poor state of the road. Consequently, average annual daily traffic on large sections of this corridor is less than 1000 vehicles. Only 40 per cent of the corridor boasts of an AADT of more than 1000 vehicles.

By Comparison on the Northern Corridor, AADT is more than 1000 vehicles in more than 80 per cent of the route. The implication is that investment is needed on the central corridor to make it a viable route. It is not clear how much is needed to build the corridor into a viable alternative to the Northern Corridor. However, this much is certain it needs a lot investment in Money, effort and time. That could take years to achieve.
 To add to Tanzania's disadvantage, the Northern corridor coalition is moving fast to build a standard Gauge Railway line from Mombasa to Kigali. The Railway will cut cost of freight by 60 per cent and reduce travel time to two days from Mombasa to Kampala and three days to Kigali. Such speeds will not escape notice of businessmen in Burundi, and D R Congo.

Burundi has shot the first volley in this respect by rejoining the Northern corridor “coalition.”  In a heads of state Summit held in Uganda last week, Burundi pleaded to be allowed to join the Northern corridor. She had earlier been roped in by Tanzania on a central corridor “coalition. The message is clear to Tanzania: “Nations have permanent interests, not permanent friends.”

What is Tanzania to do? She has to be decisive and firm. She must work with her partners at EACM bloc at their speed. If the expansion of Mombasa Port into a Mega port and the construction of SGR are completed in 2018 as planned, Dar-Es-Salaam Port could be elbowed out of business.

Unfortunately for Tanzania, the Central Corridor is almost entirely a Tanzanian affair. The country has to bear the cost of developing the Corridor for use by her neighbours, for a fee. An inefficient, central corridor could also stifle activity at the proposed Port at Bagamoyo. The port is billed the largest in Africa, with a capacity to hold 20 million TEUs a year compared to Dar-es-salaam whose capacity is 800,000 containers a year.


At this point, given that gloomy picture, we may ask: Will Tanzania pull out of EACM?  This is unlikely. While she may be slow in adapting to change and moving with the rest Tanzania is quite sensitive to the gains of a greater integration. Consequently, she has not at any point objected to or refused to advance toward the common goals of the East African Community. Likewise, Kenya has made no attempt to exclude its southern confederate.  It cannot be a Jacob-Esau  rift forever.

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