|By Chris Mgidu and Joy Nabukewa MOMBASA, (Xinhua) -- The Kenyan government on Wednesday pledged its commitment to expediting the regional integration in East Africa by promoting the free movement of labor, goods and services.|
President Uhuru Kenyatta said his government has also undertook to deepen Kenya’s economic ties with neighboring countries—South Sudan, Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia, and to take steps towards eliminating tariff and non-tariff barriers while encouraging greater collaboration of regional partners.
The president said the regional integration will be spearheaded through joint infrastructure programs and investments to harness the collective potential of the region.
The facility reflects the expanded capacity at the port of Mombasa and will enable berthing of large container ships. It is the single largest berth capacity expansion undertaken in 35 years.
The Mombasa-based port facility is the best equipped on the East African coast, being the second largest port in terms of tonnage and containers handled after Durban of South Africa. It serves the hinterland markets of Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, South Sudan and Ethiopia.
Kenyatta has said Mombasa port must position itself to serve the interests of the entire East Africa region, and that the government plans to transform the port into the largest, busiest and most business-friendly sea-port on the East African coast.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda said the port was critical in assisting producers of goods and services in the region to access local and international markets.
Museveni, who is also the current chairman of the East African Community, challenged regional states to unite in a bid to create a bigger market for regional products and services as well as consolidate their bargaining power with major global economies and trading blocs.
He lauded his Kenyan counterpart’s personal efforts that helped remove non-tariff barriers such as roadblocks and corruption resulting in faster movements of goods, people and services between Kenya and Uganda.
During the commissioning, Kenyatta expressed his government’s readiness to improve road and rail links with neighboring countries, starting with the building of a standard gauge railway from Mombasa to Malaba in order to increase rail freight from the current 4 percent to at least 50 percent in the next few years.
He said Kenya was also committed to the Lamu Port-South Sudan Ethiopia Transport Corridor (LAPSSET) project to pave way for the transformation of transport and logistics and accelerate the social and economic development of the region.