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An ambitious shipping route

Elzahraa Jadallah
In addition to ongoing inland maritime corridor development across the Nile Basin, a new project aims to advance the waterway from Lake Victoria to the Mediterranean Sea.
25.10.2018  |  Cairo, Egypt
Participants attending the fourth VICMED Steering Committee Meeting in Cairo. (photo: The Niles | Elzahraa Jadallah)
Participants attending the fourth VICMED Steering Committee Meeting in Cairo. (photo: The Niles | Elzahraa Jadallah)

The Nile is a convenient means of transport for people and goods across the basin. The development of inland and transboundary maritime corridors is constant work in progress. The latest and ambitious project is the “Establishment of a Navigational Line Between Lake Victoria and the Mediterranean Sea (VICMED)” project.

Egypt is leading this project under the patronage of President Abdel Fatah El-Sisi and the participation of all the Nile Basin countries, including Egypt, Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania.

Within the activities of the first Cairo Water Week, the fourth meeting of the VICMED Steering Committee was held in Cairo. Various stakeholders discussed the draft final report of the study “The institutional, Legal, and Regulatory Framework and Training Needs Assessment” and the project’s way forward.

The Director of Infrastructure and Logistics at the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Secretariat, Jean Baptiste Mutabazi, said the meeting went very well, as stakeholders went through the institutional and legal framework and in the last sessions they were finalising the terms of references for the way forward. COMESA coordinates the project among the member states.

VICMED is a mega project that takes time.”

“Since the past year the consultant was visiting each of the countries and checking their capacity, then we would see the requirements. The terms of references will determine the cost of the full-feasibility,” Mutabazi said, adding that the so far gathered data isn’t enough to design the implementation. “We are still in the beginning.”

VICMED was approved at the beginning of 2013. The project seeks to promote inland waterways transport by integrating river, rail and road transport along the Nile and develop river management capacity. Initiators hope the project leads to more socio-economic cohesion among Nile Basin countries, a sustainable integrated multimodal transport system, and enhanced trade and tourism in the basin.

To date the project is still at study-conducting levels, divided into three phases: a pre-feasibility study funded by Egypt, which was granted US$ 650.000 by the Africa Development Bank (AfDB); now there’s an on-going resource mobilisation campaign to solicit funds for the second phase which would be a full-feasibility study; and after the accomplishment of the second phase the last one, the actual implementation of the project. The total cost of the project was estimated at US$ 10-12 billion.

Mutabazi said that it is hard to set a date for the start of the actual project implementation. “Phase one was going deeply to collect data. We could only estimate the duration of that. The second phase now will go on at least for five years, but all this depends on the speed we go on the resource mobilisation to do that.”

“VICMED is a mega project that takes time,” Mutabazi added. He further valued the interest of riparian countries to participate, assuring that the project will become a reality if only the required funds are raised.

The project goes forward as each country is to form a national committee which actively participates in the on-going processes, provides data and information and supports the consultant to finalise the institutional and legal frameworks, as well as the training needs assessment.

In their progress report, provided during the meeting, the steering committee stated that the AfDB had shown interest in funding the second phase of the feasibility study. However, according to Zubeir Taban, South Sudan’s representative, no entity announced a clear commitment to providing the needed funds.

This project is very important as it will link different parts of Africa.”

“The meeting was fruitful, and although we argued many points, in the end, we came to agree. The argument was about water usage and the different scenarios for the project. We agreed on one of them with some edits. We came out with recommendations from the discussions that would be sent to all the participant countries to comment on them,” Taban explained.

“This project is very important as it will link different parts of Africa. And even if this generation couldn’t benefit from it, the next generations will,” Taban added.

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