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 REMARKS OF RT. HON. RAILA ODINGA, EGH, AFRICAN UNION HIGH REPRESENTATIVE FOR INFRASTRUCTURE DEVELOPMENT IN AFRICA DURING THE LAPSSET CORRIDOR MINISTERIAL MEETING ON 28th JUNE 2021 IN ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA.

H.E. DAGMAWIT MOGES, Minister of Transport, Ethiopia

H.E. MINISTER OF TRANSPORT, SOUTH SUDAN,

HON. JAMES MACHARIA, Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Transport and Housing, Kenya.

Dr VERA SONGWE, UN Executive Secretary of Economic Commission for Africa.

Distinguished Guests,

Let me begin by appreciating the Government of the Federal Republic of Ethiopia for organizing and hosting us here for this Ministerial Meeting.

I thank mminister Moges for her leadership in moving forward the LAPSSET agenda.

Of course, we are meeting against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic which continues to devastate our countries. Sad as the backdrop is, it is an opportunity for us to renew our commitment to the dream of regional and continental integration by way of infrastructure.

This period of pain is also a good time to enhance our efforts to strengthen the ties that bind us as a continent. We realize, now more than ever, that we need closer cooperation in areas like public health, trade, provision of services and the safe movement of people and goods across vast territories of the continent. All this can only be made possible through efficient infrastructure.

It is therefore a good time to look into our highways, railways, waterways, internet connectivity, energy, ports and airports and how best we can use them to save lives today and secure our people in the decades ahead.

LAPSSET was conceived ten years ago just for such purposes by South Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya.

Over the years, the Government of Kenya has assigned significant funds to facilitate the implementation of the Corridor.

As a result, the first berth of the Lamu Port together with other essential port infrastructure was commissioned on 20th May, 2021.

We hope to complete the second and third berths by October 2021, and thereafter have them commissioned by the leaders of the footprint countries.

Despite the progress, it is clear that weak regional coordination remains a major stumbling block to the speedy realization of the original goals of the LAPSSET Corridor.

The project is in dire need of regional institutions to facilitate its centralized planning and implementation.

In January 2021, with the support of the UNECA, I convened the first LAPSSET Corridor Regional Ministerial Meeting in Mombasa, Kenya.

The meeting resolved to set up a regional Steering Committee and a Technical Committee to coordinate the activities of the Corridor. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic set in and disrupted the road-map agreed on at the Mombasa meeting.

We can’t hold back any longer especially now that we realize that covid-19 will be will be with us for a prolonged period of time.

In this regard, I note with appreciation that in May 2021, the footprint countries developed and endorsed the Terms of Reference for the two committees. This is a significant development and I applaud the teams that worked tirelessly to make the significant step possible.

The purpose of this Regional Ministerial Meeting today is to agree on how to have the committees get down to work.

At this meeting, we will witness the signing of the TORs by the footprint countries. We will then complete the nomination of membership of the two committees.

With aall the three footprint countries as well a number of the relevant AU and regional institutions and stakeholders being represented here today, we have to get these bodies to get down to work.

The times demand that we move with a great sense of urgency. As we are all aware, the African Continental Free Trade Area is now in operation. But it is meaningless without investment in meaningful and reliable infrastructure.

The LAPSSET Corridor is therefore a vital cog in the desired wheel of continental connectivity for trade and movement of goods, people and services. Its full realization must not delay any further.

We must not relent in our audacious goal of connecting the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean via this Transcontinental Beltway running from the coast of Kenya, cross South Sudan, through the Central Africa Republic, to the coast of Cameroon.

The world around us is thinking big and pursuing ambitious dreams. Africa must not be left behind.

We must take this ambitious LAPSSET Corridor goal as a test of our commitment to regional integration and continental trade. We must see it as a test of our commitment to imagining a different and better future for Africa’s youth.

Already, the LAPSSET Corridor has been picked as one of ten AU Presidential Infrastructure Champions Initiative (PICI) projects. It has also been prioritized under the PIDA priority action plan for 2021-2030.

These are good foundations for us to urgently build on. They are indications that at the political level, the vital goodwill exists.

Let us therefore move with haste at the technical level to develop a comprehensive regional structure and mechanism with the requisite policy and legal framework.

Let us also develop innovative Public-Private Partnership strategies for mobilizing the resources that will be needed to realize the LAPSSET Corridor.

To attract PPPs, we have to have a joint enabling environment, including common legal and governance frameworks. In some cases, these exist on paper but are being frustrated by old bureaucracies or nationalist feelings.

There is evidence that ffinancing for such infrastructure projects exists if we can demonstrate the bankability of the project.

Moreover, there cannot be a shortage of capital to finance our infrastructure needs given the renewed interest on Africa. We are at that point and that moment where investors and governments across the world realize that they have something to gain from a prosperous Africa.  They are looking for our success in upgrading our infrastructure and they have an interest in working with us and with private contractors to contribute to success.

Let us tap into this goodwill well aware that such moments never last forever; and that we are not the only region or continent plotting a take-off. Our challenge is to seize the moment while it is with us. As we invest in the infrastructure of transport, we also have to invest in peace, security and political stability if regionalism has to take off or bear fruits.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have travelled this journey of continental infrastructure together for a while now.

I remain an unyielding Afro-optimistic and Pan-Africanist. I believe this project can and will be realized in our day and time. Let us stay on this journey, hasten our steps and make this century the African century through infrastructure.

I THANK YOU ALL.

 

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