EAC gears up for heads of state retreat on financing health projects

By Zephania Ubwani

The East African Community is gearing up for the leaders’ retreat next month expected to seek sustainable ways to finance major infrastructure and health projects.

For the infrastrcutre sector, the regional leaders will also consider new strategies to engage with the private sector and multi-lateral agencies such as the African Development Bank in financing.

“The Heads of State Retreat on Infrastructure will also seek ways to mobilize the required financing to construct connecting roads that will decongest the cities and enhance ports logistics”, the Arusha-based EAC secretariat said at the weekend.

Themed ‘Deepening and widening regional integration through Infrastructure and Health Sector Development in EAC Partner States’, the event will take place at Speke Resort, Munyonyo on February 21st to 22nd.

“The Heads of State will address infrastructure and health development and financing in EA”, the statement said, adding that the meetings will also discuss ways to attain the objectives of the EAC Development Strategy.

The retreat is expected to give impetus to infrastructure and health development by way of harnesing political support for regional flagship projects, funding committments and public-private arrangements.

Railways, ports and inland waterways will be key priority projects to be discussed during the coming event as will be ways to seek finance to decongest the cities and improve ports logistics.

Todate, three high level retreats on infrastructure development for the EAC bloc have been held so far; in 2008, 2012 and 2014.

Through the retreats, several projects in transport, energy, civil aviation have been identified for development at the regional level and resources mobilized for implementation.

An official of the EAC secretariat said the traditional retreat on infrastructure development will this time around be held alongside with that of health financing and development.

These, he added, would also run concurrently with the first EAC Summit on Investment in Health and Health Sector investors and Donor Round Table and International Exhibition.

“This will be the biggest ever event of the EAC Heads of State on matters of health”, he told Daily Monitor in Arusha, noting that the region was currently undergoing major public health transformations.

While most of the major infrastructure development projects in the region have depended heavily on support from the development partners, of late experts have advocated for multi-modal transport systems.

The systems connect roads, railways, pipelines, inland waterways, ports and airports and are seen as cheapest ways to connect easily within EAC.

Recently, the World Bank pledged a $ 500 million to support implementation of a transport programme within Lake Tanganyika that would provide intermodal linkages  between three regional economic blocs, including EAC.