The formal entry of Ethiopia into the Northern Corridor Integration Projects initiative is likely to reshape the regional economy and politics, creating a new trading bloc.
Ethiopia announced it had applied to join Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan and Uganda in the initiative that is slowly transforming into more than just an infrastructure-oriented group during the 12th Head of States meeting in Kigali last Thursday.
Ethiopian Foreign Minister Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus said his country on Thursday submitted a letter to join the initiative after being an observer for six years.
“The northern corridor projects have been practical and successful due to the political will demonstrated by its leaders,” said Dr Ghebreyesus.
Started by presidents, Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, and Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, the initiative was developed as a way to improve trade between the three countries.
The coming together of the three presidents was seen as a protest at the slow integration in the East Africa Community, with the initiative seeking fast-tracking of much of the agreed protocols in the EAC.
Only Tanzania and Burundi are not members of the initiative. Though South Sudan is not yet a member of the EAC (despite applying to join the bloc), it was admitted into NCIP. Tanzania, on the other hand, is still an observer of the NCIP proceedings.
Aviation deal signed
Tanzanian High Commissioner to Rwanda, Amb Ali Idi Siwa, however, conveyed President John Magufuli’s message, saying his country was willing to participate in future events of the integration project.
Heads of State at the meeting agreed that ministers and national co-ordinators of the five countries should work closely to speed up implementation of projects in the bloc.
At the sidelines of the NCIP meetings, ministers of the five states signed a memorandum of understanding on air rescue and search missions. The deal will allow civil aviation authorities to interact and allow aircraft to land without any hindrance in partner states.
The move by Ethiopia is considered a game changer in the bloc, especially in the future handling of the proposed crude oil pipeline through Kenya and Uganda.
Since South Sudan and Ethiopia are located on the northern side of Kenya, they are expected to fully support the passage of the crude oil through the northern route.
Kenya has been optimistic that the crude pipeline will eventually pass through the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport (Lapsset) corridor.
Source: New Times