Speech at the Tripartite Sectoral Ministerial Committee on Infrastructure (TSMCI)

Honourable Ministers from the Tripartite Region

Excellences Ambassadors and High Commissioners

Senior Government Officials from Zambia

Distinguished Officials from Tripartite Region

Distinguished Representatives of International and Regional Organisations

Distinguished delegates

Invited Guests

Members from the Media Fraternity

Ladies and Gentlemen


I feel honoured and privileged to address this important meeting which is being held in Lusaka, the Capital of Zambia and home of COMESA seat. Allow me to thank the government of the Republic of Zambia for graciously hosting the Meeting of the Tripartite Sectoral Ministerial Committee on Infrastructure which was preceded by the Tripartite Committee of Senior Officials and Experts.  I wish to also thank all Member/Partner States from the Tripartite region in attendance today, other invited regional organizations here present and collaborating partners for providing requisite resources for the implementation of our programmes. I have no doubt that our collaborative efforts will accelerate our regional integration agenda.

Excellencies, Honourable Ministers, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen

You will recall that implementation of the Infrastructure Development Pillar focuses on interventions as approved by the 1st Tripartite Summit held in Kampala, Uganda in 2008 and subsequently expanded on by the 2nd Tripartite Summit held in Sandton, South Africa in June, 2011.

The Memorandum of Understanding on Regional Cooperation and Integration amongst COMESA, EAC and SADC (Article 3) identifies development of infrastructure programmes, financing and implementation as one area of cooperation under the Tripartite. In this regard, the Tripartite agrees to develop inter-regional infrastructure and harmonize programmes in transport and communications.

The Tripartite Sectoral Ministerial Committee on Infrastructure (TSMCI) supported by Senior Officials and Experts from Member/Partner States is tasked with the development and implementation of the Tripartite infrastructure pillar in line with the institutional architecture as outlined in the Memorandum of Understanding on Inter-Regional Cooperation and Integration amongst COMESA, EAC and SADC.

The Tripartite Sectoral Ministerial Committee on Infrastructure is expected to meet at least once every year as provided for in the Tripartite Agreement [Article 6 (1) c]. However, the Infrastructure Development Pillar has been lagging behind due to lack of funding when compared to other pillars. This is the 2nd Meeting of the Tripartite Sectoral Ministerial Committee on Infrastructure under the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite framework as provided under the MOU, the 1st having been held in Dar es Salaam in October 2017.

Despite resource constraints, the Tripartite Task Force (TTF) and the Infrastructure Sub-committee (ISC) have held several meetings since and have been updating the progress of Infrastructure Pillar programmes.

Excellencies, Honourable Ministers, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen

It is an agreed fact that infrastructure plays an important role in economic growth and development through integration of markets, attracting foreign direct investment, increasing productivity and reducing costs hence increased competitiveness. However, the region is faced with challenges of unreliable energy supply, poor road and rail networks and inefficient ports. All these individually or jointly militate against production and trade.  The quantity and quality of infrastructure affect trade through its impact on production and distribution. Transport, energy and information technology infrastructure in particular have a direct impact on competitiveness.

More investment and concomitant policy initiatives that promote generation of additional capacity, maintenance and efficient utilisation of existing infrastructure are required in order to boost capacity by addressing the supply side constraints. Current regional economic growth trends require a corresponding growth in infrastructure and efficient utilisation to cater for both current and future demand. Addressing supply side constraints especially infrastructure will ensure accelerated regional integration and growth.

Excellencies, Honourable Ministers, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen

Africa’s poor competitiveness globally has been attributed to quality of institutions, infrastructure, macro-economic policies, education and technological adoption.  The persistent infrastructure deficit is a major barrier to regional integration. This therefore calls for development of adequate and efficient infrastructure systems. Though expensive, investment in infrastructure has a major impact on reducing transport costs, creating income opportunities and generation of jobs

Infrastructure development also contributes to strengthening and deepening regional integration. Better infrastructure, in effect, up-scales and facilitates relations between countries. It stimulates integration of the productive sectors because it brings close together economic spaces, reduces and/or eliminates the physical barriers to trade and transport costs and expands the market size. Development of such infrastructure services as energy, information and communication technologies (ICTs) and transport, is all the more important because it conditions the competitiveness of economies and hence their growth.

Excellencies, Honourable Ministers, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen

The desire for adequate infrastructure has been expressed in economic history over the years as evidenced by initiatives pursued to promote investment in infrastructure both globally and Africa in particular.  Such initiatives include among others;

  • The Lagos Plan of Action (1980) and the Abuja Treaty (1991) which underscored infrastructure development as a priority area;
  • The Sub-Saharan Africa Transport Programme (SSATP) by the World Bank (1987)
  • NEPAD (2001) which reaffirmed infrastructure development also as a priority area;
  • Almaty Declaration (2003) which identified infrastructure development as one of the key priority areas to address the special needs of landlocked developing and transit countries;
  • The Infrastructure Consortium for Africa (G8 Summit 2005), which aimed to promote improved living conditions in Africa through increased private and public investment in infrastructure;
  • The Program for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) established in 2009
  • the 2002 NEPAD Short-Term Action Plan; the NEPAD Infrastructure Project Preparation Facility (IPPF) hosted by AfDB and;
  • The Presidential Infrastructure Champion Initiative (AU/NEPAD, 2011)
  • Vienna Plan of Action 2014

Our agenda and programmes should respond to global and continental developments in order for us to address current and future needs so as to remain relevant. For example, climate change is real and calls for resilient infrastructure, the Tripartite Free Trade Area vis a vis the Continental Free Trade Area, establishment of the Single African Air Transport Market versus Tripartite initiatives in the same area. These developments call for proper coordination and alignment to avoid contesting for the same economic space. The PIDA Priority Action Plan 1 (PIDA PAP 1) is coming to an end in 2020 and PIDA PAP 2 is currently under development

Excellencies, Honourable Ministers and Distinguished Delegates;

You will agree with me that we have received tremendous support from our International Collaborating Partners in support of infrastructure development programmes over the years. However, current trends suggest that this source of funding is not sustainable and as such we need to explore other options to ensure sustainability. In that regards, in COMESA region, the second meeting of the joint Committee of Ministers of Finance and Governors of the Central Banks held on 16th October 2019 in Washington DC on the sidelines of IMF/World Bank2019 Annual Meetings decided to set up a technical working group to assess and come up with modalities for the operationalisation of the COMESA Common Market Levy to finance regional integration  programmes.

The public sector on its own may not be able to bridge the funding gap for infrastructure investment. In this regard, there is need to engage the private sector through public-private-partnerships (PPPs). The challenge therefore is to develop effective institutional and financial mechanisms to attract private sector participation in infrastructure development. Member/Partner States with the assistance of the Tripartite RECs. Secretariats should prepare bankable projects, enact enabling laws and regulations, and loan guarantee systems. Peace and security is another key variable when considering the enabling environment for private sector investment and infrastructure development and management in general.

Excellencies, Honourable Ministers and Distinguished Delegates;

It is important to note the significant strides and initiatives on infrastructure development and maintenance in various countries in the Tripartite region despite the contravening challenges. In the Transport sector, the Tripartite region has seen an expansion of the road network through construction of new roads and rehabilitation of existing ones. In this regard, a number of roads are currently under construction whereas others are at design stage. It is encouraging to note that a number of highways are taking shape in the region in some Member/Partner States like Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe with the support of collaborating partners like the African Development Bank, World Bank and the European Union.


Construction and rehabilitation of railways has also gathered momentum especially in East Africa where a decision has been taken to migrate from the narrow to the standard railway gauge.

  • The Ethiopia – Djibouti railway line was upgraded to standard gauge.
  • Kenya is constructing the Mombasa – Nairobi – Eldoret standard gauge railway
  • Upgrading of the Kenya – Uganda railway to standard gauge on course
  • The Central Corridor Railway project which seeks to upgrade the Central Corridor railway linking Dar es Salaam to Isaka and proceeding to connect with the Akagera Basin railway linking Tanzania to Burundi and Rwanda is at an advanced stage.


Apart from accelerating the pace of regional integration, the resulting connectivity will provide member states with options on railway corridors to use based on their efficiency. Increased capacity and improved efficiency are expected to result from competition among the corridors.


The following railway projects in Southern Africa are worth noting;

  • The Tete-Nacala Cape gauge railway line linking Moatize in Mozambique through Malawi to Nacala port which is operational
  • North Western Railway to link Zambia and Angola whose planning is at advanced stage of implementation
  • North Western Link linking Swaziland and South Africa at Lothair which has reached resource mobilization stage
  • Rehabilitation of the Benguela railway line in Angola linking Congo DR to the Atlantic Ocean which was completed in 2013. The line also links Zambia to the Atlantic Ocean through Congo DR.

There is no doubt that these initiatives will have a long-lasting transformation on the regional transportation industry.


Excellencies, Honourable Ministers and Distinguished Delegates;


The launch of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) by the African Union Commission in January 2018 has provided the impetus for accelerating the implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision. To date thirty (30) African Union Member States have signed up to the Solemn Commitment to support implementation of SAATM. Of these 30, eleven (11) are Tripartite Member/Partner States.


The Tripartite Aviation Sector Support Programme to be supported by the European Union to the tune of €8million will enhance performance of the sector. The objectives of the program are to support;

  • Operationalisation of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM);
  • Aviation sector reforms and capacity building; and
  • To promote seamless operations in the Tripartite region.


New airport terminals have been constructed and existing ones have been expanded in recent years. We have also seen the introduction and acquisition of new large aeroplanes by for example, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and resuscitation of national airlines in Tanzania, Uganda among others. New services have been introduced resulting in improved connectivity and convenience to the travelling public.


Maritime ports remain a key gateway for cargo to and from global markets as they are the interface nodes between surface and maritime transport. It is encouraging to note on-going and completed port projects intended to increase capacity in Djibouti, Mombasa, Lamu, Dar es Salaam, Tadjaoura and Nacala.


Inland waterways though not extensively used in the region, have major economic and social benefits to offer. Acknowledging this fact, a number of inland waterways projects are under various stages of development. These include;

  • Egypt completed the New Suez Canal in 2015 which provides additional capacity to handle global seaborne trade. The canal links the Mediterranean and the Red Sea.
  • Establishment of a Navigational Route between Lake Victoria and Mediterranean Sea through River Nile (River Nile Transport Corridor) – pre-feasibility study completed and resource mobilization for full feasibility study and detailed design are ongoing; and
  • The Lake Tanganyika Transport corridor.


These developments in physical infrastructure while critical to enhancing regional connectivity and improving productivity, they are not sufficient without efficient utilization complementing transport transit facilitation instruments in order to minimise or eliminate bottlenecks that my cause delays and underutilization of critical resources.


Excellencies, Honourable Ministers and Distinguished Delegates;


Transit instruments and cross border transport facilitation programmes intended to address these challenges have been applied in the Tripartite region with notable success including One Stop Border Posts (OSBPs), the adoption of the harmonised Axle Loads Limits and Gross Vehicle Mass and Vehicle Dimensions at the Tripartite level. I am glad to note the progress made so far under the Tripartite Transport Transit Facilitation Programme (TTTFP) in an effort to ensure full harmonization and implementation of agreed transit facilitation instruments.


The strategic goal of TTTFP funded by the EU under the 11th EDF is to harmonise road transport laws, regulations, standards and systems that affect a driver, a vehicle and loads when they move interstate. The program responds directly to the requirements under the Tripartite and continental Free Trade Area to simplify trade and harmonise transport facilitation in order to remove non-tariff barriers to trade, reduce the high transport costs and to make goods and service competitive on regional and global markets. TTTFP seeks to address the challenges posed by multiple membership of our Member/Partner States to different RECs as it seeks to promote harmonisation based on international conventions, standards and best practices. TTTFP seeks to achieve four key result areas that resonate with the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), the Trans African Highways Norms and Standards and the African Road Safety Charter. The four key results areas are;

Result 1: Eastern Africa – Southern Africa (EA-SA) Vehicle Load Management (VLM) Strategy Implemented in the continental area of the Tripartite;

Result 2: Harmonised EA-SA vehicle and driver regulations and standards implemented in the mainland countries of the Tripartite Agreement;

Result 3: Preconditions for an operational EA-SA transport registers and information platform and system (TRIPS) implemented;

Result 4: Efficiency of regional transport corridors in the Tripartite improved.


TTTFP seeks to achieve this by assisting the region to move from quantity-based regulation of cross border road transport to quality-based regulation. By promoting minimum and common quality specifications on axle load limits to protect road infrastructure, common standards on certification, licensing and inspection of vehicle, vehicle dimensions, design and management of vehicle test stations etc.  it is clear that road safety will be addressed at source. TTTFP uniquely embeds ICT in regulatory solutions in keeping with global trends in the implementation of the 4th Industrial Revolution.


Excellencies, Honourable Ministers and Distinguished Delegates;


The entire TTTFP programme is anchored on the following two draft Agreements: Draft Vehicle Load Management Agreement (VLMA) and Draft Multilateral Cross Border Road Transport Agreement (MCBRTA) and corresponding draft model laws / minimum principles, regulations and standards which were prepared and validated by Tripartite Member/Partner States in 2015 and 2016 respectively.


Whilst substantive progress has been made to facilitate Member/Partner States reach convergence, there are still narrow areas of divergence. Thus, Honourable Ministers are expected to discuss and compromise on these points if the net benefits of increased harmonisation are to be achieved especially by landlocked Member/Partner States.  In summary the outstanding areas relate to – tolerance allowable on maximum permissible vehicle mass including safety considerations when checking loads at weigh stations, Abnormal Loads definitions and treatment, Dangerous Goods scope, vehicle dimensions and abandoning restrictions that lead to non-competitiveness such as the third country rule – all of which contribute to higher transport costs if we fail to harmonise.


The road travelled to date has been long and arduous and a lot has been achieved. Member/Partner States have agreed specification and strategies to harmonise national transport information systems and share data for effective regulation and law enforcement. Member/Partner States responded positively to the request for offers to host the regional gateway for data exchange. Already 12 standards have been validated which the African Standards Organisation (ARSO) will now put through the adoption process to become African Regional Standards.


Excellencies, Honourable Ministers and Distinguished Delegates;


Allow me to indicate that resolving the outstanding differences will require compromise in order to achieve a win-win situation. Failure to resolve the differences to achieve harmonisation will result in traffic diversion to avoid corridors that lack harmonisation, continued non-competitiveness of regional goods due to high costs and accelerated deterioration of expensive road infrastructure, whilst the already high number of road crashes will continue unabated.


This is time for bold decisions which will set our region on the right course and serve as model to rest of our continent. After all, we are the first REC to create a robust joint programme in trade and infrastructure which are yielding positive result in helping us uplift the lives of our citizens.


Excellencies, Honourable Ministers and Distinguished Delegates;


In the case of Energy, various sources of power will be harnessed. The strategy is to generate and transmit power through interconnectors for regional markets. For hydro-electric power, it is heartening to note the significant initiatives to develop new power generation sources like the Grand Renaissance Hydro Project (Ethiopia), Inga Hydro Project (DR Congo) and Batoka Hydro Power Project (Zambia and Zimbabwe). Concomitant to these developments and others elsewhere, the Tripartite region has seven major interconnectors spread throughout the region which are at various stages of development which will facilitate transmission and power trade.


Allow me to indicate that the Tripartite and Indian Ocean Commission are jointly implementing the Project on Enhancement of a Sustainable Regional Energy Market in Eastern Africa, Southern Africa and Indian Ocean (EA-SA-IO) Region with the support of the EU under the 11th EDF. The project which covers energy policy and regulation, seeks to achieve an enhanced harmonized, efficient and gender-sensitive regulatory environment in the EA-SA-IO region; and capacitate regional regulatory associations and power pools to more effectively oversee and stimulate increased regional power trade.


It is encouraging to note that the project has so far contributed towards capacity building in various energy institutions in the region and formulation of various energy policy and regulatory frameworks. These policy and regulatory instruments will promote viability and vibrant performance of the regional energy sector.


Excellencies, Honourable Ministers and Distinguished Delegates;  

ICTs have revolutionized the way of conducting business and reduced communication costs significantly. The private sector has invested heavily in regional connectivity and services following opening up of the sector in most countries. This notwithstanding, there are other accompanying issues/challenges that arise from the extensive use of ICTs which need to be addressed.

I am glad to advise that the Tripartite has formulated an ICT Support Programme to be funded by the EU under the 11th EDF to the tune of €8million. The overall objective of the regional programme is to contribute to the deepening of regional integration by contributing to the growth of the ICT sector to strengthen trade, economic and social ties.

Excellencies, Honourable Ministers, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen

This meeting will consider the Report of the Tripartite Committee of Senior Officials on the current status of implementation of Tripartite Infrastructure Programmes and projects in Transport, Energy and ICT. The TSMCI will make decisions and provide necessary guidance on various issues. This assignment is by no means a mean one considering that as the decisions of the TSMCI are final except if reversed by Summit as provided for in Article 6 (2) of the Tripartite MoU.

The output of this meeting is therefore very important as it forms the basis of development of guidelines that will be applied in our region in order to enhance the region’s physical infrastructure capacity and facilitate provision of services. 

Excellencies, Honourable Ministers, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen

Allow me to thank our collaborating partners who have over the years provided the much need resources to support our programmes. You will agree with me that without their support our programmes would have been adversely affected.

On that note Excellencies, Honourable Ministers, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen, let me wish you fruitful deliberations and thank you for your kind attention. 

Lusaka, Zambia
31st October 2019


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