A strong call has been made to the East African Community (EAC), partner states to prioritize on policies that will attract and promote investment focusing on the development of the people and business community.
The integration of the people into the economy is the only way to ensure that growth has a broad effect and is sustainable.
“We have to listen to the people and to the businesses and it is only by working together that we will be able to spur economic growth in our region,” The Chairperson of the Summit of East African Community Heads of State, Paul Kagame said over the weekend.
President Kagame made the call at the opening of the strategic retreat of the EAC Council of Ministers and Heads of EAC Organs and Institutions in Kigali with the theme, “Renewing our commitment to the objectives of the Community, accelerating our integration agenda.”
President Kagame noted that the retreat offers an opportunity to focus on the EAC vision, and to make concrete plans on how this vision can be achieved.
He urged EAC Partner States to urgently address all matters impeding the swift implementation of the various regional integration projects and programmes.
“There is urgent need to take ownership of this integration agenda, and this includes Partner States remitting our statutory contributions on time,” he said.
“As the African continent is coming together, the EAC has all that is needed and all that it takes to lead this process at the continental level,” he added.
The EAC Secretary General Amb. Liberat Mfumukeko, said that the retreat presented a key platform to not only celebrate the achievements registered by the Community in the past 20 years, but also an opportunity to collectively address the challenges in implementing the EAC integration agenda.
Amb. Mfumukeko said that since the Treaty for the Establishment of the EAC was signed 20 years ago, the EAC had registered great achievements.
These include the implementation of various projects and programmes under the Customs Union, Common Mark, Monetary Unions and Political Federation Pillars.
“Besides the multiple achievements registered, there are several challenges that hinder the effective implementation of the EAC integration agenda,” he said, adding that non-compliance to signed Protocols by partner states remains a crucial hurdle for the Community.
“In July 2019, we will be marking nine (9) years since the Common Market Protocol came into force. Unfortunately, some partner states are yet to approximate or harmonize their national laws, policies and systems.
“As a result, the full implementation of the Common Market protocol remains challenging. Subsequently, the free movement of persons and factors of production anticipated to spur regional economic growth remain restrained,” he said.
He said that Secretariat often times receives many complaints from the citizens on the various challenges they face at customs and immigration desks.
These include: the denial of entry into a Partner State without being furnished with the reasons for the denial; the confiscation of travel documents by immigration officials upon arrival into a Partner State followed by the requirement to report to a police station daily, similarly without due process.
Students enrolled in Universities different from their Partner State of origin were also still being charged tuition fees as an International Student.
“These not only restrict the free movement of persons as enshrined in the Common Market Protocol, but also water down the achievements of the Community,” added the Secretary General. Amb. Mfumukeko further reiterated that while the late disbursement of statutory contributions by Partner States to the EAC affects the implementation of EAC activities, 50 per cent of the EAC main budget was currently donor funded and appealed to the Partner States to establish an alternative financing mechanism for the Community.
The Secretary General also urged the Council of Ministers to review the decision making process of the Community to ensure efficiency and timeliness.
“There are issues that have been on the table for more than eight years, such as the institutional Review and the Alternative Financing Mechanism for the Community”, he said.
“Several Sectoral Councils have been established to better facilitate the implementation of the various EAC Sectoral projects and programmes. In addition, several committees have also been established.
While the initial intent was to create an avenue for quick decision-making and speedy implementation activities, this is not necessarily the case today.
With time, the EAC is witnessing several Sectoral Councils whose mandate overlaps with other Sectoral Councils, and the same applies for committees,” said Amb. Mfumukeko.
The Secretary General therefore urged the Council of Ministers to revisit the roles, composition and functions of various Sectoral Councils and Committees.
In his welcoming remarks, Rwandan Minister of Foreign Affairs and EAC Cooperation, Dr Richard Sezibera, said that the retreat comes at a time when there was need to assess fundamental issues affecting EAC integration.
“While we have achieved much, there is always room to assess our progress and plan on ways to better deliver our agenda,” said Dr Sezibera, who is also the Chairperson of the EAC Council of Ministers.