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The East African : February 24th 2014
The EastAfrican NEWS FEBRUARY 22-28,2014 NORTHERN CORRIDOR INTEGRATION PROJECT SUMMIT 13 Single tou≥ist visa: Things to note How will the single tourist visa be issued? It will be issued upon application at any of the diplomatic representations of Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda, at the Immigration offices of the respective countries or online, where applicable. Will it be different from the other visas Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda issue? The visas for specific Presidents Kagame, Uhuru and Museveni at the Summit at the Commonwealth Resort Munyonyo in Uganda. Pic: Morgan Mbabazi Burundi joins CoW in regional joint infrastructure projects The fo≥mal inclusion of the two in the talks will ≥eshape the politicaleconomic map of the ≥egion A JOINT REPORT The EastAfrican B urundi now wants to participate in the implemen- tation of joint infrastructure projects by Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan, leaving Tanzania isolated in the region. At the same time, the so- called Coalition of the Willing partners appeared to forge ahead with plans for the standard gauge railway that will link the countries after Uganda and Rwanda said they would adopt Kenya’s controversial financing approach, in which it is receiving 85 per cent financing (or $4.4 billion) from Exim Bank of China. The model has drawn con- troversy in Kenya, but a parliamentary committee has finally given the go-ahead for the project. Questions had been raised over the capacity of China Bridge and Road Corporation to build the Ksh448 billion ($5.2 billion) Mombasa-Malaba railway and over why the contract had been single-sourced. It has also emerged that Uganda now wants to terminate an agreement it entered with a Chinese firm for the construction of its SGR as the fight for the contract enters a decisive phase. Meeting in Kampala on Thursday for the Northern Corridor Integration Project Summit, Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta (Kenya), Yoweri Museveni (Uganda) and Paul Kagame (Rwanda) agreed that Uganda and Rwanda would adopt the Kenyan financing approach to fasttrack the construction of the SGR and report to the next Summit due in April. The presidents said the countries must meet the March 2018 deadline for completion of the standard gauge line. This came even as it emerged that Uganda would cancel an existing deal on the SGR. According to a February 5 letter from Uganda’s Works Permanent Secretary Alex Okello to the Solicitor General, the ministry acknowledges that it signed a MoU with the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation in January 2012 “for purposes of rehabilitating or upgrading of the existing railway line from Malaba to Kampala.” Okello goes on to explain that after joining Kenya and Rwanda in a tripartite agreement to develop a standard gauge railway, the MoU with CCECC has to be terminated to make ‘WE WANT IN’ Not to be left behind, Tanzania, which was represented by Vice President Mohamed Gharib Bilal, will now submit their areas of interests by the next summit in April in Nairobi. Tanzania has been keen to salvage the Southern Corridor, on which there are also plans for a new railway as well as a mega port at Bagamoyo, by cementing ties with Burundi, DRC and, possibly, SADC. way for regional negotiations. He seeks legal guidance from the Solicitor General on how this can be achieved in the shortest possible time. The letter does not explain what aspects of the tripartite agreement make it necessary for Uganda to cancel the MoU, especially given that the same ministry is trying to enter into a new MoU with another Chinese civil contractor, the China Harbour Engineering Corporation, CHEC. The PS’s letter is also at variance with recent developments that have seen Kenya proceed to award the contract for its portion of the SGR to the China Road and Bridge Corporation, another subsidiary of CHEC’s parent China Civil Construction Corporation, which is undertaking construction of the Kampala-Entebbe superhighway. Junior Works Minister John Byabagambi, who is chair of the SGR Steering Committee, ruled out the possibility of the regional SGR project being awarded to a single contractor, saying each country would manage its portions of the project although they would try to jointly approach the Chinese government for funding. Uganda’s portion of the line will cost an estimat- ed $5 billion, not $7 billion as earlier estimated, he said. Meanwhile, Burundi, which attended the CoW meeting for the first time, asked to be allowed to join all initiatives. The formal inclusion of Burundi and Tanzania in the talks for closer economic ties will reshape the political-economic map of the region, as the countries seek to heal a rift that had threatened to scuttle the East African Community. The heads of state directed their ministers of foreign affairs to co-ordinate Burundi’s interest and invite the ministers of Burundi and Tanzania to the next technical and ministerial meetings. Leaders from the three countries first met in June last year to discuss joint investments in a new standard gauge railway, an oil refinery in Uganda and oil pipelines. They were joined in Kigali by President Salva Kiir of South Sudan, who was expected to join the grouping. Burundi’s Vice President Gervais Rufyikiri said that as a landlocked country, they recognise the need for the infrastructure projects that are currently being undertaken by Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda. “So Burundi fully supports all infrastructure projects as they are important in developing this region but in all these initiatives we have been excluded at all levels,” he said. “We therefore request to be included in all the technical meetings and the political decisions.” Reported by Michael Wakabi and Dicta Asiimwe countries cost $50 but allow the tourist entry into only that country. he EAC single tourist visa, working like the Schengen visa for European Union countries, will allow tourists to enter any of the three countries and move freely within the other two without having to pay for another visa. It will be a multiple-entry visa, and tourists will pay $100 for it. The length of stay for which it is issued cannot be extended, neither is the visitor permitted to work. What prevents me from using a visa issued by the Rwanda embassy in Washington for a business meeting in Kigali to travel with it to Kenya? Visa issued for a specific country are only used to travel to that country and not into any other EAC country. How will it work without stamping them? You will still be re- quired to fill immigration forms where your length of stay in the neighbouring country will be indicated and it will be logged in the system. Are they all now machinereadable? Yes. It is machine read- able. Rwanda will provide the software for personalisation of the visa stickers to Kenya and Uganda. The software will enable the three countries to share the fees, tourist information and tourism data. How will member states ensure it works? Rwanda has been tasked with the duty of setting up the visa and implementing it for the first one year. This will be on rotational basis each year. Rwanda will provide the Information and Communication Technology software for personalisation of the visa stickers to Kenya and Uganda. he software will enable the three countries to share information on fees and tourist data. So far 60,000 visa stickers have been produced and distributed, in equal numbers, to the respective high commissions and immigration offices of the three countries. Visa fee collected will be shared among member states, with the issuing country taking $10 and the remaining $90 shared equally among member states. How will the Single tourist visa benefit the three countries? They will be able to market themselves as a single tourist destination like for the coming up March 2014 trade fair in Berlin, the Internationale Tourismus-Börs, the world’s largest tourism trade fair. The Partner States will use the common logo and respective stands be designed to appear similar, they will have a joint promoting committee. A web portal has therefore been formed as www.visiteastafrica.org that will be hosted by Rwanda and pay for hosting and domain name for the first year. Thereafter, payment shall be on rotational basis. What issues should the partner states address to ensure that the tourist visa is a success? They should focus on other issues like reducing the airfares within the region. For example, it is more expensive for a tourist to fly within the three countries than to fly into them from say Britain. A tourist flying from Britain to Kenya will pay $800, then $400 from Kenya to Uganda, and $300 to Rwanda which is very expensive considering the distances between the East African countries To market itself as a single tourist destination, hotel rates needs to be such that a five star hotel in Kampala is no different from one in Nairobi or Kigali. East African countries need to implement the standardisation of their hotels to meet the agreed EAC criteria. Security concerns are a major obstacle to the adoption of a single tourist visa within the region and should be addressed as an emergency by the partner states.
February 17th 2014
March 3rd 2014