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Over 100 cyclists set off for epic East African tour to push integration agenda

June 17, 2019 at 08:51 am | We Tour

Mildred Europa Taylor

Mildred Europa Taylor | Associate Editor

June 17, 2019 at 08:51 am | We Tour

Seraphine Flavia, the Acting Director General of East African Community Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, flags off the East African Community Bicycle Tour in 2017. Pic credit: The New Times

As part of campaigns to raise more public awareness about the East African integration agenda, more than 100 cyclists will, over a period of 40 days, be taking an epic tour of over 4,300 km around East Africa.

Dubbed the ‘East African Bicycle Tour’, the race, which is in its third year, will take place from August 1 to September 20, 2019, under the theme: Integrate or Perish.

For the third time, the tour is being organised under the Campfire Logs Guild of Uganda, an initiative that brings together different East African youth communities “mainly to create unity, peace and togetherness to strengthen the awareness of the EAC integration among member countries’ communities through cycling.”

John Bosco Balongo, the Team Leader and Director of Campfire Logs Guild of Uganda, who is also the lead organizer of the Bicycle Tour, said this year’s tour which will be flagged off on August 1 at the Independence Monument in Kampala.

The tour is aimed at promoting the spirit of the East Africanness among the people of East Africa, promote tourism and business potential of the Community, a release from the East African Community said.

Codenamed Tour d’EAC, the race is also to enhance the awareness of social and cultural peculiarities of people and places in the East African Community.

“The ultimate goal of the initiative is to bring the citizens of East Africa to own the integration process. The East African Bicycle Tour is an expression of unity, oneness, togetherness and peace. By riding through all the East African countries, the ties that bind East Africans together is renewed and strengthened. The event welcomes every East African from whatever part of the region to take part,” the release from East African Community said.

The following routes have been provided for the tour:

On the Ugandan side, the bicycle tour will cover Kampala-Jinja-Malaba while on the Kenyan side, it will go through Malaba-Eldoret-Nakuru-Nairobi-Kajiado to Namanga.

On the Tanzanian side, the tour will connect Namanga-Longido-Arusha-Moshi-Dar es Salaam-Chalinze-Morogoro-Gairo-Dodoma-Nzega to Tabora. From Tabora, it will pass through Usinge and enter Burundi through Mugina-Manyonvu border.

In Burundi, the tour will connect Rumonge-Bujumbura-Ngozi-to Rwanda border then to Kigali. From Kigali, the tour will pass through Ruhengeri to Kisoro-Kihihi-Mbarara then to Kampala, the release added.

Despite some challenges related to corruption, governance, and peace and security, the East African Community has made tremendous progress since its formation in 2004.

There has been significant regional collaboration and noteworthy impact on regional growth. A recent example is the EAC’s GDP which rose from $20 billion in 1999 to $75 billion as of 2015. The region also boasts a bigger market with a populace of at least 130 million people. From the original three member states; Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, the membership has increased to six, integrating Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan.

This year, the African Development Bank regional reports stated that economic growth in East Africa is soaring ahead of other regions on the continent at close to 7 per cent while the overall outlook for the rest of Africa is “cautious, but positive”.

Job creation and ramping up manufacturing will continue to be major priority areas for creating growth and employment across the continent, the report, released in April, said.

Earlier in March, theafricareport said that among eight regional economic organisations recognised by the African Union, EAC stands tall in terms of integration.

Having established a free trade area, a customs union, a common market, partially attained free movement of people and looking to establish a monetary union by 2024, the six-member community is an especially high-performer on two elements – trade and productive integration – according to the Geneva-based International Trade Centre. However, varying reports state that cracks are beginning to show within the EAC.

“A mixture of rivalry and diverging national interests are driving the creation of non-tariff barriers, which curb progress,” theafricareport said.

Meanwhile, the Secretary General of the East African Community, Amb. Liberat Mfumukeko is optimistic that the Tour d’EAC will greatly promote the EAC integration agenda.

“We have endorsed this event and written to the Permanent/Principal Secretary/Undersecretary in the Ministries responsible for EAC Affairs in the Partner States notifying and requesting them to support and assist the organizers to undertake this tour successfully in their respective territories”, said Mfumukeko.

The Campfire Logs Guild is partnering with several people or organizations in the partner States to undertake the 3rd EAC Bicycle Tour.

For those interested in cycling, East Africa’s astounding variety of wildlife, its unbelievable landscape and vast savannahs, would offer one an unforgettable experience, observers say.

For instance, Uganda is blessed with some of the largest, most beautiful, and most peculiar birds in the world while East Africa’s mountain ranges give bikers the opportunity to witness the endangered Mountain Gorilla, in the wild.

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