News Round-up

FAO Raises Red Flag over Food Situation
An estimated 3.8 million Kenyans will require emergency food aid in March 2010, amid a relentless rally in prices of key cereals. The latest outlook report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) shows that the 2009 drought continues to impact on the country’s food situation.

“Harvesting of 2009 long-rains season maize crop, which accounts for 80 percent of total annual production, is about to be completed and production is officially forecast at 1.84 million tones, about 28 percent below average”, the report said, blaming the situation on erratic and low cumulative rainfall levels, estimated at between 10 to 50 percent of the normal. The failed rains mainly affected maize yields in Eastern, Coast and parts of Rift Valley province.

Energy – Sink or Swim
Dreams of petrodollars have followed the discovery of oil and gas in commercial quantities in Uganda, but this bonanza could make or break the fledgling EAC Common Market, either opening up its new free market or strengthening state intervention and visiting the dreaded “resource curse”.

Success or failure will affect the EAC’s neighbours too, for energy, business and markets. Oil reserves are expected to reach five billion barrels and what has been found so far – 700 million barrels – is currently worth US$50bn. For rough comparison, this is two-thirds of the current combined annual gross domestic product (GDP) of the EAC, some US$73bn between Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi.

Kikwete Calls for a Wider Rail Network
The Tanzanian President, Jakaya Kikwete said there is a need to interconnect railway systems across regional blocs to rehabilitate infrastructural projects that will create stronger economies. He said a robust railway system will be crucial once the EAC merges with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) regional blocs.

He said that COMESA members resolved to create a huge free trade area, spanning from Alexandria to Cape Town, which would not be attainable without a reliable railway network. The conference was attended by regional ministers of Works and Transport to seek a synergy from other institutions on the way forward for the dilapidated railway system in East Africa.