NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 10 – In bid to heighten the profile of the region that has long been dogged by poverty and conflict, Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) is planning a conference that will enable its seven member states to integrate and fast achieve economic development.
Through the Horn of Africa Initiative, the member states plan to enhance interconnectivity in transport and energy sectors, and regional management of water resources as priority areas for development and integration.
“We have come up with this strategy we are calling ‘Horn of Africa Initiative’ through which we can have the region interconnect through people and through infrastructure,” IGAD Executive Secretary Eng. Mahboub Maalim explained.
Maalim observed that through the meeting themed ‘Interconnecting member states of the Horn of Africa for peace, security and sustainable development’, to be held in Nairobi from March 12 to 13, positive developments in these areas would go a long way in eliminating the ‘traditional’ problems of hunger, poverty and conflicts that the region is accustomed to.
Although the bloc, made up of Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda are well endowed with resources such as minerals, abundant arable land and water supply, they nonetheless face huge crises that make life unbearable for millions of citizens and sets back economic development.
With about 200 million people, comprising about three percent of the world’s population, the region is a beneficiary of about 40 percent of the entire global food aid. A similar number is undernourished while the situation is dire in Eritrea and Somalia where the proportion rises to 70 percent.
The Horn of Africa is also home to the highest number of refugees, with Kenya hosting over 700,000 of them, exacerbating the food insecurity situation.
IGAD however hopes to change these staggering statistics by upgrading and interconnecting transport, communication and energy sector as catalysts for growth.
This way, the many people that are cut off from national and regional economies can begin to play a role in the development of the region.
In the transport sector for instance, the organisation is looking at the construction of a corridor linking Juba to Kitale through Kapoeta, Nadapa and Lodwar. Another connecting Isiolo to Agreamariam in Ethiopia through Moyale and yet another from Juba to Kampala have also been proposed.
A railway link from Malaba to Juba and another from Djibouti to Addis Ababa have also been planned.
On the energy front, the region is looking to generate thousands of megawatts from clean and green energy which is abundant in the region. Kenya has already made headway in the development of geothermal and this experience is expected to come in handy once the projects are underway.
The projects have been estimated to cost roughly $5 billion (Sh410 billion) but IGAD is adamant that most of these investment funds will come from the private sector.
“The question of asking for money from donors is really a long term thing and one that is becoming exhausting for everybody. So we are looking to attract the private sector and also we expect our governments to provide some concessional loans in any these projects,” Maalim said.
The organisation can also hope to draw lessons from the recently launched Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport and Economic Development Corridor which envisages the construction of a network of major infrastructure developments in Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan.
For these projects to get underway however there has to be a show of political commitment to jump start these programs which were first mulled in 2007.