An agreement on technical, economic and cultural cooperation between Kenya and the southern Sudan is expected to enhance ties between the east African nation and the vast region which recently emerged from more than two decades of civil war, officials said on Monday.
The agreement, which was signed in Kenya's capital of Nairobi last Friday, calls for the identification of priority projects and programs for implementation and mobilization of financial resources from external donors and other international organizations for specific projects and programs.
Kenya's Foreign Affairs Minister Raphael Tuju and southern Sudan's Information Minister Samson Kwaje said the signing of the projects is expected to pave way for the southern Sudan to train their personnel from different sectors such as health, education, military and police.
Tuju, who was speaking in Nairobi, said a joint commission to be co-chaired by both the Kenya's foreign affairs and the minister for regional cooperation and southern Sudan will coordinate the process of cooperation.
He said the agreement would provide a wide horizon between the two governments to venture into areas of common interest without further delay.
"We urge the government of southern Sudan to hasten in putting in place relevant acts and regulations in order to promote investment for the general development of the region," said Tuju.
Kwaje said since the east African nation spearheaded efforts to restore peace in the once war probe region, it should therefore be in the forefront in reaping the benefits that comes with this change.
According to Kwaje, plans are underway to establish an office in Nairobi to help interested Kenyan investors to run through the required processes without much hassle.
"The office, to be opened soon, will formalize issuance of Visas and the required materials for an investor to be allowance to do business in the region but it should be clear that the office will also work together with the Sudanese embassy," Kwaje said.
The southern Sudan information minister said compliance would focus on the reconstruction efforts in the country in the fields of education, health, governance and the rule of law among other issues.
Kenyan foreign minister said plans are underway to make coastal town of Lamu a modern port to supplement the port of Mombasa.
"This will create communication linkages between Kenya and southern Sudan as well as other neighboring countries including Ethiopia and Uganda, through the construction of a modern railway line referred to as the ROOLA project," said Tuju.
The minister said it was important for Kenya to collaborate with neighboring countries, notably members of the Common Markets for Eastern and Southern Africa to accelerate bilateral trade.
Tuju said the move would create more jobs in the country and boost business in the region.
He said that they were in the process of finalizing details to rehabilitate the road from Kenya to Southern Sudan through Lodwar- Lokichogio to Juba.
The venture, he said, will ensure that a well-maintained network links the two countries.
"Along this proposed railway line, the government of Southern Sudan may plan to develop an oil pipeline for the shipment of crude oil through Lamu. Similarly, a fiber optic cable can also be laid along the railway line to enhance communication and data transfer," Tuju added.
Kenya, which hosted peace talks that led to signing of Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005, is particularly keen to beat South African rivals in the race for opportunities in southern Sudan and also aims to build a railway and oil pipeline to connect its neighbor to its Indian Ocean port city of Mombasa.
The country's largest bank, Kenya Commercial Bank, has opened two branches in Rumbek and Juba in Southern Sudan, making it a double in less than a month as it moves to meet the immense demand for banking services in the vast region.
African firms including the international ones have been positioning themselves to exploit opportunities in southern Sudan, focusing on sectors as diverse as construction, oil, banking and farming, and hoping to share the billion of dollars pledged by donors.