(eTN) – Part of the official program for the upcoming East African Community Head of State Summit in Nairobi will be the formal launch of the new highway, which is linking Nairobi, via Namanga, to Arusha. The project which started back in 2004 brings both hope for closer integration of the two countries it connects, and the region overall, but also serves as a stark reminder of outstanding issues between Kenya and Tanzania.
A leading tourism stakeholder in Nairobi made it all but plain when saying: “The new highway is part of Kenya’s new drive to create traffic infrastructure. The last 10 years have seen unprecedented construction activity and investments in roads and bridges, opening up the country and giving farmers access to markets. For us in tourism it makes it also easier to reach the parks. This road will link Nairobi through Athi River to Kajiado and Namanga. It gives us an improved road link to Amboseli National Park and the surrounding conservancies. But it is also a reminder that the border in Namanga with Tanzania is still shut for our safari companies because we cannot operate freely except to Arusha.
“The EAC must address the removal of NTBs now. Integration in tourism and aviation is a must. We can operate to Uganda and Rwanda but not to Tanzania. The Serengeti border is still closed, forcing costly criss-cross safaris instead of using the available routes which until 1977 [the time the first EAC broke up and Tanzania closed her borders with Kenya for 7 years] worked very well. We are now looking at establishing a common currency, implementing the remaining protocols so there is no more space for restrictive NTBs. When they open this new highway, let Kikwete and Kibaki [the Presidents of Tanzania and Kenya] also remember these issues. When Kikwete was here a few weeks ago, he evaded the questions but he better be ready to answer them soon and we get a working solution.”
While these sentiments are understood only too well, after all Uganda’s general aviation sector is facing similar obstacles when trying to get clearances to fly into Tanzania and is generally prohibited to fly beyond any of the designated entry points like Mwanza or Kilimanjaro, it is unlikely that these issues will be resolved, considering that even a long in principle agreed upon common East African tourist visa has been stalled by bureaucrats trying to protect their little fiefdoms to the detriment of what is arguably East Africa’s most vibrant economic sector – tourism.