Eastern Africa Sister Cities (EASC) was officially launched by the President and CEO of Sister Cities International, Ms. Mary Kane. The launch ceremony that was also attended by the Minister of East African Community Hon. Musa Sirma who was represented by Mr. Eliazer Muga, a chief Economist with the Ministry of East Africa Community was hosted at Sarova Panafric on Feb 29 2012. Also in attendance were Mayors from East African Cities, council representatives from different parts of East Africa, NGO leaders, youth representatives and business leaders.
EASC was established following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Sister Cities International and the Inter Region Economic Network (IREN) in August 2011. EASC’s main goals are to develop, coordinate, incubate, help sustain existing city, town and municipality links worldwide with emphasis to promote a south to south city twinning and strengthen Sister Cities in Eastern Africa region. EASC is the third Sister Cities International’s official Partner in Africa. Other partners are Africa Global Sister Cities Foundation (AGSCF) based in Ghana-Representing West Africa region and Sister Cities Africa (SCA) based in Morocco- Representing the North Africa region.
Ms. Mary Kane believes that Africa has a lot to offer to partners within and outside the region and that through city twinning, there could be cultural exchanges, sharing of business opportunities and tourism between the partners which translates into economic empowerment, peace and prosperity.
“Our hope is that over the coming years we will see a dramatic increase in the number of U.S.-Africa sister city relationships. Currently there are over 130 partnerships in Africa, which is far too few. We would like to see more twinning between African countries to support regional cooperation and development. As the world has shrunk over the past years with easier communication and more options for traveling, international cooperation is no long an option—it’s a requirement. And with the rise in African prominence, whether in technical areas such as mobile banking, cultural areas such as music and film, or economically, Americans are gradually waking up to the fact that Africa cannot be ignored.” She says.
The Minister for East African Community, Hon. Musa Sirma, through his speech read by Mr. Eliazer Muga, a Chief Economist with the Ministry of East Africa Community welcomed the EASC initiative as one that offers synergy to the progress of East African Community from its present stage of common market towards its ultimate goal of a political federation.
“It is important to underscore the potential role of the Eastern Africa Sister Cities (EASC) in the process of embracing regional integration and ensuring access of such benefits by the citizens.. There is no doubt that EASC has the capacity and suitability for playing this role. I therefore encourage EASC to continue and even intensify plying the role of advising on how the EAC cities can to achieve envisaged growth projection under regional integration framework” Said the Minister.
The Regional President of EASC and Director of Inter Region Economic Network, Mr. James Shikwati believes that EASC will offer opportunities for the devolved government to share ideas and explore avenues to widen business opportunities in the region.
"It is our expectation that the city and urban center twinning concept will add value to Kenya in its new county government dispensation and enhance the East Africa Community spirit of social, political and economic cooperation" says Mr. Shikwati.
In preparation for its launch, EASC held a forum in November 2011, where city leaders and business leaders converged for a half day forum to brainstorm on avenues that EASC can use to improve the city/ urban/ municipalities. The forum also highlighted how EASC will assist in devolution to enhance cooperation between different counties through exchanges and learning. EASC plans to add value to twinning partners by offering twinning forums that will encourage exchange of ideas, leadership training to the urban leaders on Management, IT, and youth empowerment.
Through city twinning, individuals, communities and organized groups establish close relationships with other local or international counterparts. These partnerships allow the twinning communities to creatively learn, work, and solve problems through cultural, educational, municipal, business, professional, technical and project exchanges. EASC plans to use this initiative to introduce North- South twinning and at the same time introduce south -south twinning to help in boosting peace and economic growth in the region through trade exchanges and tourism. For this to be successful, EASC will involve all stakeholders in ensuring that relationships established offer avenues to empower the communities in the region. Areas of best practice will be shared, solutions to common challenges sought and avenues to increase revenue generation identified.
After the launch, the President SCI, who was accompanied by the Program Manager SCI and a consultant visited Mombasa to assess the state of the projects funded by Sister Cities International under their African Urban Poverty Alleviation Program (AUPAP) funding. They later flew to Ghana to launch the AGSCF Technology Centre.
By Raymond Kiptum,
EASC Project Manager.