• Every beginning of New Year, presidents take time to convey messages of good will recounting government’s agenda to its citizens and promising development plans into the future.

    This year is not different, except for the new leader in town- President John Magufuli- who has taken the lime-light away from many African leaders. Dr Magufuli has caused both pleasure and fury in the same measure. For East Africans, Magufuli is the game changer in the political arena, but for some political leaders, he is a ‘clown’ playing bad jokes on them.

    When relaying their New Year wishes, President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya highlighted major strides that the governments have made particularly in ensuring quality infrastructure across the two nations.  They vowed to continue supporting the improvement of infrastructure in their countries.

    Infrastructure high on Agenda in EAC

    During last years’ EAC Heads of State Summit chaired by then Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete, discussions revolved around infrastructure and how to harness resources towards the regional infrastructure projects.

    Delivering his speech, President Museveni expressed his delight saying that “Since 2006, we started resisting the mistake of spending on consumption before we spend on development and wealth creation. We were also able to prioritize among priorities.”

    According to the head of state, Uganda has been able to prioritize infrastructure “by combining our own funds and some limited funds from outside,” said the president adding that all major roads will be tarmacked in the next five years.

    Since the EAC Summit, countries within this bloc have received donor backing to complete some pending projects which will ease transport in East Africa, translating to faster development.

    In Kenya, President Kenyatta said this year will be marked by the launch of a “programme to build 8,000 kilometres of new tarmacked roads,” with the first batch of 1,700 kilometers being rolled-out this January.  The second lot of 1,800 kilometers will be launched in March.

    It’s not just roads that the East African leaders are supporting this year. The Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) is a master plan for the countries.

    Regional member states’ budgetary allocations for the financial year 20015/16 indicate that Kenya has set aside $1.2 billion for the standard gauge railway and an additional $260.6 million for the Railway Development Levy Fund. Uganda on the other hand, allocated $1.45 million for the Kampala-Kigali standard gauge railway line, while Rwanda’s $15.1million for the project was set to be raised.

    The 2,561-kilometer SGR from Dar-es-Salaam port to Rwanda, Uganda and Congo (DRC) is expected to be completed in the next five years.

    Moreover, China, Japan, World Bank and European Union have announced their partnerships with various EAC governments to support infrastructure development. This connectivity will not only increase competitiveness, but also reduce cost and increase ease of doing business transactions from one country to another.

    Speaking during the heads of state summit last year, World Bank Country Director for Burundi, Tanzania and Uganda, Philippe Dongier, said the organization has laid out plans to invest in specific transport links to better connect landlocked countries (Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and South Sudan) to the Central and Northern corridors. This, he said will improve these countries’ access to Dar-es-Salam and Mombasa ports.

    Also key in this years’ plans for East Africa is the need to increase supply of affordable electricity, which will contribute to large-industrialization.

    “By building Karuma, Isimba and a number of small mini-hydros, our generation capacity will, by 2020, stand at 1,974 megawatts compared to the 60megawatts of 1986. With Ayago, our generation capacity will go to 4,356 megawatts, by 2035,” said Mr Museveni in his new year speech adding that this is part of delivering on the infrastructure, an area the government has prioritized.

    “In 2015, we completed the final phase of our effort to spread light to every village in Kenya by connecting every Government primary school to electricity,” Mr Kenyatta noted.  “This has enabled us to lay a foundation for the first time in our nation’s history, we are also on target to connect one million households to the national grid in a single financial year, remaining on target to connect 70 per cent of Kenyan households to electricity by 2017,” he added.

    Kenyatta noted that by connecting market centers and rural households to power, the productivity of the rural economy will be enhanced.

    Kenya is also looking forward to implement climate change agreements following a fund of $10 million from Climate adaptation. Denmark on the other hand, is committed to supporting Kenya with $7.5 billion shillings for the Green Growth and Employment Project. Renewable energy projects also got a boost following the $10 billion pledge by Renewable Energy Initiative.

    Other plans for the year include expansion and improvement of education, security, healthy, ICT, sectors in individual countries and East Africa as a whole.