The past few months have seen a number of new routes opened especially connecting the four East African capitals. Last year alone, Fastjet started operating from Entebbe to Dar e s Salaam, whereas another one Sax Airline operates the Entebbe Nairobi route.
In addition another airline, Rwandair also operates flights to and from Entebbe to Nairobi and connecting to Kigali.
The developments have filled up the gap left by Air Uganda whose grounding had created a hike in airfares resulting in high cost of freight especially by the market leader- Kenya Airways.
Things got better when another international low cost carrier-Fly Dubai- started flights from the three capitals of Entebbe, Dar and Nairobi to Dubai. This will make travelling more efficient and cheaper. By allowing people to meet to initiate and cut deals in a very short time, more and more East Africans will get closer hence realising the goal and exploit the opportunities of the EAC regional integration.
A lot has been done to get people closer. Through modern telecommunication and information technology people are able to link up and sort out issues or agree on major deals that enhance trade, for example the use of mobile money and money transfer saved traders from traveling with bulk cash. Most telecommunication operators now provide a platform whereby subscribers are able to call across borders at a little or the same cost like home calls. Again this makes integration easier.
There is still more to be done if we are to make communication easier especially when it comes to calling across networks and roaming throughout the region. East African operators and regulators are yet to agree on a standard calling and roaming rate.
There are attempts underway to free the skies so that any airline registered in the region can operate freely without being charged overflying fees. Such a bold move will make flying as common as boarding a taxi as is the case with Europe and the United States.
Some countries are reluctant to take that bold step especially that the national carrier (Kenya Airways) has benefitted a lot from high costs of travel in the region.
When travel eases and becomes more efficient, affordable, more foreign direct investments are attracted to the region because movement is a key requirement of doing business.
This is one element which improves the regions competitiveness.
Other efforts to link the region through better road and railway infrastructure are on-going and all these combined continue making life better for East Africans. More and more airlines will be attracted as more reforms are made and more east Africans fly.