REMARKS OF H.E. RAILA ODINGA, EGH, HIGH REPRESENTATIVE FOR INFRASTRUCTURE DEVELOPMENT, AU; AT THE FIRST REGIONAL MINISTERIAL MEETING
ON THE LAPSSET CORRIDOR PROGRAM 14TH JANUARY 2020 AT THE SAROVA HOTEL, MOMBASA;
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
Thank you for honouring our invitation on short notice.
Let me begin by wishing everyone a happy New Year 2020 and a prosperous new decade for Africa.
We are here to breath fresh life into a vision unveiled in March 2012 when the Prime Minister of The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, the Late Meles Zenawi, The President of The Republic of South Sudan, H.E. Salva Kiir Mayardit and The Former President of The Republic of Kenya, H.E. Mwai Kibaki, recognised the importance of interconnectivity between the three countries to the rest of the Continent. As Prime Minister of the Republic of Kenya then, I was honoured to be part of that vision and at the event at which our three countries inaugurated the Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia (LAPSSET) Transport Corridor to provide seamless connectivity, enhance trade facilitation and logistics within the region and beyond.
Today, I invited you to convene in my capacity as the AU-High Representative for Infrastructure Development in Africa to appreciate the distance we have travelled and to re-evaluate, refocus and re-energise that vision of 2012 and give new impetus to the implementation of the LAPSSET Corridor.
We agreed back in 2012, and we agree today that realising the East-West Trans-Continental Beltway – connecting Lamu Port to Douala/Kribi (Cameroon) seaports via Juba and Bangui is critical to connecting our region to the rest of Africa and the world for easier movement of goods and services.
On the surface, our task is simple. It is to consider the Report of the LAPSSET Technical Committee meeting and give some detailed thought to the fact that the LAPSSET Corridor implementation is a Presidential Infrastructure Champion Initiative (PICI) project under the African Union with transnational and transformational components.
In the end however, what we do here today will go along way in triggering off a chain of events that are expected to revitalize the LAPSSET Corridor program and solidify a shared approach to the implementation of the LAPSSET Corridor Program.
It our expectation that at the end of our deliberations here, we will establish a representative Steering Committee as an umbrella body to coordinate the implementation of the corridor. We are also expected to come up with a roadmap towards the establishment of the Umbrella body.
This meeting is also expected to come up with a program for the review of the progress with regard to the establishment of an institutional framework/mechanism and establishment of the umbrella body.
On paper, and in this room, these may look like simple tasks of little significance in the grand scheme of things.
In the grand reality though, the meeting here is the stuff of history; it is the stuff of those events that triggers chain reactions that change the destiny of nations and regions.
Our nations will not be the same again when LAPSSET takes off fully as a regional and multinational enterprise.
I returned from China just the other day. They have a saying there that “if you want to get rich, you must first build roads.” This approach was a central pillar of Chinese economic advancement during the past four decades.
It is taking roots in Africa in the context of the African Continental Free Trade Area formulated in 2018.
What we append our signatures to here today will mark the start of this region’s contribution to Africa’s dream for better cross-border land transport that provides links between inland centres and the ocean ports, and services cross-border trade among countries and regions located far from the ocean ports.
It will provided the much needed route for specialized time-sensitive high-value products get a faster means of reaching distant markets.
Historically, Africa has had connectivity and traded with itself before even when the mode of movement was rudimentary and torturous. The lack of integration that followed is a product of post colonisation and post independence politics and not some inheritance from history.
That is why to reconnect, political goodwill and participation is critical and that is why the region’s political leadership is represented here.
It is my hope that from this meeting, we will come up with realistic recommendations, firm commitments to realising them and clear time frames for implementation.
I wish you fruitful deliberations