Prioritizing Infrastructure development
With the consolidation of the Customs Union and establishment of the Common Market, which was launched in July last year, EAC has been greatly energized and indeed the regional programme has reached its threshold. Most of the region’s development Master Plans, which had lingered for a long time in the planning and studies phases, have been taken to the implementation stages. These include projects and programmes in the critical areas of Infrastructure, roads, railways, inland waterways, ports and harbours, Communications/ICT, Energy and Civil Aviation, which have been prioritized under the 4th EAC Development Strategy (2011-2016).
The EAC vision for the next five years is for a modernized and vastly revamped railways system and roads network, efficient communications and reliable power supply. The realization of these projects and programmes will stimulate industrial and agricultural development, create employment and generate wealth, taking the region to its rightful place among the fast modernizing economies of the world. Similarly, the EAC is intensifying activities in other sector projects and programmes, including the Agriculture and Rural Development, Industrialization, Lake Victoria Basin Development as well as projects and programmes under the Social Sectors and Co-operation in Political Affairs.
Trade and Investments promotion
The EAC Development Strategy also prioritizes Trade and Investments promotion activities to the traditional markets in Europe and North America as well as to the new emerging markets of Asia and Latin America. The EAC Investment Conferences that are held annually since 2008 have realized great success in promoting the region’s economic potentials and investment opportunities. With the hosting of the World Economic Forum for Africa in 2010 and the Africa Investment Forum in 2011 in East Africa, both of which were held in Dar es Salaam, the region has become a major focus of global trade, tourism and investment attention.
The enactment, in 2008 of the EAC Trade Negotiations Act was a major breakthrough in the longstanding search by the EAC Partner States to negotiate as a bloc in the multilateral trade fora. The joint negotiation strategy is currently pursued in the negotiations of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union. EAC is also participating as a bloc at the forefront of the Tripartite EAC-COMESA-SADC initiative towards the establishment of the Grand Free Trade Area of the three major African regional economic communities. This larger trade area will further boost EAC’s market advantage and strength.
SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT DIMENSION
Apart from the pragmatic orientation, emphasizing economic integration, EAC is focusing attention on the social development dimensions. The issues in social security, solidarity and development are mainstreamed within the broader programmes of the EAC across the sectors in, among others, the programmes of health co-operation, gender and community development; education, science and technology, culture and sports development; and environmental and natural resources management. The EAC Forum for Ministers responsible for Social Development is charged with sharing of experience and harmonization of policies and approaches, in the management of cross-cutting social concerns towards the realization of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Activities in this area shall focus on the role of women and youth. Elaborate action plans are being pursued towards this end.
CO-OPERATION IN POLITICAL AFFAIRS
Together with the focus on social development, efforts are intensified under co-operation in political affairs. Important instruments relating to the development of improved and harmonized governance structures and systems encompassing a wide array of constitutional issues have been developed. These include the issues of rule of law, human rights, anti-corruption, transparency, accountability, election observation and monitoring, and protection of human rights, foreign policy co-ordination, defence and regional peace and security matters.
As the process towards political federation is sustained, EAC’s abiding concern remains to align national political activities and trends with regional integration objectives towards deeper integration and rapid socio-economic transformation. A major pre-occupation of the EAC in the period ahead will be in fostering friendly relations and sustainable management of common resources among the Partner States. The issues of peace, security, stability and development ; and strengthening relations with the African Union and other international organizations will increasingly take pride of place as the EAC countries set their sights firmly on their cherished goal of Political Federation.
Regional Defence and Security
The realization of a large regional economic bloc comprising Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi bears great strategic and geopolitical significance, imposing on the EAC Partner States enormous responsibility for regional defence and security. A protocol governing co-operation in defence and security matters is at advanced stage of consideration, setting the stage for deepening and widening co-operation in regional peace and security.
EAC has in the past successfully pursued strategic mission to establish wider areas of peace and security beyond the confines of its borders. This has included our involvement in the Burundi and IGAD peace processes, and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Process, which culminated in the signing in 2006 of the Pact of Security, Stability and Development of the Great Lakes Region. Co-operation among the EAC Defence Forces is currently engaged in the issues of insecurity posed by the situation of Somalia; Piracy in the Indian Ocean waters off the East African coast; and proliferation of small arms and light weapons filtering from the states of insecurity in the countries surrounding the EAC region.
Co-operation in Foreign Policy Co-ordination
Setting out in general and specific terms, the EAC programme in the next five years intends to achieve, among others, the following priority period ahead following the adoption in December 2010 of the EAC Protocol on Foreign Policy Co-ordination. Among the activities envisaged under the Protocol, the Partner States' Diplomatic Missions shall co-ordinate their positions and hold joint briefings and presentations on matters, activities and other initiatives of interest or concern to the Community as well as joint promotion of EAC regional projects. These joint activities are emphasized especially at the Partner States' Diplomatic Missions in multilateral stations whereby they shall hold regular consultations to harmonize positions in multilateral organizations; consult and harmonize positions and undertake joint lobbying in multilateral meetings. They shall co-ordinate positions, where appropriate, and present joint statements in the multilateral fora.
The activities include sharing of consulate facilities and services; collaboration in Economic and Social Activities whereby joint promotional activities are held in the Partner States' Diplomatic Missions and within the Partner States in marking important EAC Anniversaries such as the EAC Day, 30th November, and other promotional activities in, among other areas, trade, investment, tourism and culture to promote and market the Community within the region and abroad. Another area of co-operation which has been ongoing and has worked very well is the co-ordination of candidatures for positions in international organizations, whereby the Partner States consult before any one of them decides to present a candidate to an international organization or body; and avoid competition between themselves for international posts or vacancies that are zoned or are political in nature. To spearhead this activity, an East African Candidatures Committee has been formed that mounts joint campaigns for an agreed candidate from the EAC region; and harmonizes EAC positions in respect of third countries' candidates seeking their support.
PRIORITIES AND FUTURE OUTLOOK
The period that we are facing coincides with the implementation of the 4th Development Strategy (2011-2016), which has in effect been launched. The Strategy takes a long term view, spanning the second decade of the EAC (2011-2020). This will be a decade of concretizing the Community. It will be a decade of rigorous application to the challenges of the socio-economic transformation of East Africa. The Strategy contains ambitious plans to implement various significant master plans in Industrial Development, Energy, Agriculture and Food Security, among other identified critical sectors. This will lead to increased diversification and major transformation of the region’s economy; Strengthening the operations of the Customs Union, in particular the establishment of the Single Customs; actualizing the Common Market Protocol, by putting in place the necessary legal and operational frameworks; including the Protocol on the Monetary Union as a component of our march towards Political Federation Initiative, establishing the Grand Free Trade Area; ensuring that the infrastructure works for the people; Strengthening popular participation, a common East African identity and political will behind the regional; Sustaining intensive programme of investments and trade promotion, involving the harmonization of the incentives. Agricultural Development and Food Security remain key challenges for the region.
By Dr. Richard Sezibera
Secretary General of the East African Community