Kenya and Uganda have launched the 150-kilometre Kapchorwa-Suam road to improve trade between the two countries.
Deputy President William Ruto on Sunday held talks with Uganda President Yoweri Museveni at State House in Entebbe where deliberations focused on trade and integration issues in East Africa.
The two leaders agreed that there is need to create a more favourable environment to enhance commerce between the two countries and other countries in the region.
The road will connect Kenya and Uganda with the DP saying that in addition to improving trade, it will increase investments and ease movement of people within the two countries.
Funded by Kenya, Uganda and the African Development Bank (AfDB), the road is 77 kilometres long on the Kenyan side and 73 kilometres on the Ugandan side.
President Museveni said the road will improve access and connectivity between the two countries and stimulate cross-border business.
He said the tarmacking of the Kapchorwa-Suam road, whose construction will be completed in three years, would improve security along the Kenya-Uganda border.
Museveni asked locals to take advantage of the improved infrastructure and engage in income-generating activities.
Latest data from the Central Bank of Kenya shows that Uganda has for the first time exported more goods to Kenya than it imported in the five months leading to May due to increased maize exports.
At a breakfast meeting with the private sector members from Uganda on Sunday in Kampala, the Deputy President said that trade must drive relations and politics between countries.
“Nationalism without pan-Africanism is not beneficial. We live in a world that is full of challenges, especially youth unemployment and poverty. All these must be tackled head-on by creating opportunities that would drive them out. And Commerce is the way to make it right,” he said.
Ruto told the meeting that despite the challenges facing the East African Community, good progress was being made.
He challenged his fellow leaders to work “progressively and consistently” to put the five-member trading bloc almost at par with the thriving Association of Southeast Asian Nations Free Trade Area, Trans-Pacific Partnership and the European Union.
Ruto said Africa should take advantage of the current wave of protectionism to fine-tune its trading blocs to give it more muscles in trade negotiations.
In a bid to make Kenya competitive and boost cross-border trade, the Deputy President said the government was investing heavily in roads, energy and relevant education.
“But we are not just building roads; we are also channelling resources in trans-boundary infrastructure. A road is better for Uganda; it is better if it connects Uganda to Kenya and other neighbouring countries,” he said.
He said at worst, if Africa fails to trade with others, then it should trade with itself. If we can push intra-African trade to 60 per cent, he added, we would be up there in the skies.