|Dr Richard Sezibera Photo courtesy|
Integration is too important to be left to the experts and bureaucrats alone. A strong realization should dawn across the region that the actualization of the East African Community depends on a resolute political will and a clear focused determination to make the EAC Customs Union and Common Market a vibrant reality and not just a statement on paper.
Deepening regional integration
The launching of the Common Market has been a major historic achievement. We must make sure that the people of East Africa benefit from this achievement. We need to re-look the operations schedules provided in the Common Market Protocol and strive to expedite the actualization of the Common Market. There are legal and regulatory frameworks that are required to be put in place in order to breathe life into the declarations on the various free movements under the Customs Union and Common Market operations. Our main challenge is to address these matters expeditiously and set the train of the Common Market in motion.
As regards to the Customs Union, our challenge is to further strengthen its operations and maximize its benefits. We need to focus on the elimination of the Non Tariff Barriers (NTBs) and take all the necessary measures to build a truly integrated and solid East African market and cohesive society.
Similarly, the establishment of the Common Market has coincided with the energized movement in the EAC Monetary Union process. We should be determined to realize the timely establishment of the Monetary Union by next year in accordance with the decision already taken by the Summit. Much as we appreciate the complex issues involved in the establishment of the Monetary Union, we are also aware that these issues are not insurmountable. Where there’s a will there’s a way.
Regional Infrastructure development
In the same vein, we recognize the great strides that have been made in the development of regional infrastructure which is a main pillar of regional integration. The recent efforts and progress in moving from master plans to project implementation of regional physical infrastructure is very encouraging.
I have in mind, in particular, the Arusha-Namanga-Athi River road project, which is nearing completion, and the expansion of the regional infrastructure master plans in roads, railways and energy to cover Rwanda and Burundi which is ongoing at advanced stages, including power interconnection between Kenya and Tanzania, which has been commissioned at Namanga; and the construction of the EAC headquarters which is due for completion in August this year.
We shall be committed to sustain this dynamic and results oriented trend in the Community with regard to all the other identified critical infrastructure projects. Efforts will be intensified in the actualization of the projects and programmes in the development of civil aviation, railways, telecommunications, and energy development; and the Lake Victoria development projects and programmes.
Investments and Trade promotion
It is also pleasing to note the good progress and achievements in the harmonization of the incentives regimes and overall promotion of investments and trade in the region. In this regard, the collaboration among the EAC Secretariat, East African Business Council and the Partner States’ Investments Promotion Agencies in promoting EAC investments and trade will be further encouraged. Our Community needs to be truly market driven.
The successful staging of the African Investment Forum in Dar es Salaam following closely on the World Economic Forum on Africa has firmly placed our region in the spotlight of international trade and development attention. In particular, the Heads of States ad Governments’ personal participation and support to the trade and investment is further proof, if any were needed, that this region is open for business.
It is also commendable that industrialization, trade and investments have been identified as major deliverables under the 4th EAC Development Strategy. There is a strong link between industrialization, promotion of investments and trade and the quest for building a strong internal market in the region. There is a need to streamline and rationalize these functions within the EAC in order to construct a powerful force and intervention in the world markets.
Already, EAC’s strategic position in trade and investments promotion is strong following the enactment of the EAC Trade Negotiation Act in 2009. The EAC is also participating at the forefront of the Tripartite EAC-COMESA-SADC towards establishing a Grand Free Trade Area and subsequently Customs Union comprising of 28 countries with a combined population of 527 million, and a GDP of USD 624 billion. Realization of this Grand Free Trade Area will further boost EAC’s market advantage and strength.
Agricultural Development and Food Security remain key challenges for the region. The 9th Extraordinary Summit of Heads of state has paid particular attention to this issue, especially during this period of rising fuel and food prices and adopted the EAC Food Security Action Plan (2011) and the EAC Climate Change Policy for implementation.
Social Development dimension
I would also like to commend the new emphasis that is being placed on the social and human development aspects of our regional co-operation. The activities in, among others, the areas of health co-operation, gender and community development; education, science and technology, culture and sports development; and environmental and natural resources management are the cement which will hold our regional integration together. To this extent we shall seek to strengthen the role of the EAC Forum for Ministers Responsible for Social Development.
Co-operation in political affairs
The attainment of East African Federation is firmly set in the EAC Treaty as our ultimate goal. What now remains is to work steadfastly towards reaching that goal in the shortest time possible. The Team of Experts appointed in 2010 to look into the issues of Political Federation has made its recommendations on the way forward to the 9th Extraordinary Summit Meeting in Dar es Salaam. We shall focus on implementing the decisions of the Summit relating to reconstituting that Team to more concretely address the fears and concern of some, and ensure that we move faster towards realizing the long cherished dream of our people for Political Federation.
Indeed, a lot of work has been done in realizing some of the constituent parts of the process towards Political Federation. Important instruments relating to harmonized governance structures and systems embracing a wide array of constitutional issues such as rule of law, human rights, anti-corruption, elections observation and monitoring, foreign policy co-ordination, defence co-operation, peace and security co-operation, have been developed.
As the regional programme enlarges and expands, it becomes important to provide effective institutional frameworks and resources to match. EAC’s organizational reform is necessary to fit into the context of moving to the higher stages of integration. These reforms, which can be realized through administrative actions or relevant amendments of the Treaty, are the key to unlocking the full potential of a more effective EAC.
The EAC Institutional Review which is ongoing is part of the necessary interventions. So is the work of the Sectoral Council on Legal and Judicial Affairs which is already seized of a number of areas in the Treaty that need to be adapted to fit the current situation in the integration process.
Mobilization of resources
Apart from the organizational reforms and restructuring, a main challenge relates to financial resources necessary to sustain the Community. It is critical that the EAC is assured of predictable long term financing to fulfill its mandate.
By Dr Richard Sezibera
Secretary General, East African Community.