The East African Community (EAC) Heads of State meeting in Arusha, Tanzania, have tasked President Yoweri Museveni to oversee the political federation process of the regional bloc.
The resolution, announced by the EAC Secretary General, Liberat Mfumekeko, at the close of the 20th Ordinary Summit of Heads of State at the Arusha International Conference Centre, indicated that member states – Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, South Sudan and Uganda – had nominated constitutional experts to guide the federation process.
President Museveni said the Secretary General will now be responsible for offering political guidance to this team which is expected to present an interim report within seven months.
Earlier, President Museveni, who is the outgoing Chairperson of the Community, handed over office to his Rwandan counterpart, Paul Kagame, with a positive projection of the Community’s future.
The East African Community, said President Museveni, has woken up and is now addressing core economic issues.
“For a long time, with other groups like the World Bank, we have been talking about private sector led growth,” said President Museveni. “But private sector cannot come in if you do not solve high costs of doing business. East Africa, however, is waking up.”
The President pointed out that the Community was now tackling the key cost pushers, which include high cost of electricity, transport, labour and cost of finance.
The region, President Museveni noted, must put more effort into addressing the cost of finance, which, he said, was still a sticking issue.
Also present at the Summit, held under the theme “Enhancing the Economic, Social and Political Integration of the EAC”, were Presidents John Pombe Magufuli of Tanzania, Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta while 1st Vice President, Gastone Sindimu, led Burundi’s delegation.
South Sudan’s President, Mr. Salva Kiir, was represented by his Minister for Trade and East African Affairs, Mr. Paul Mayom Akech.
Both President Kagame of Rwanda and the EAC Secretary General, Mr. Mfumekeko, paid tribute to President Museveni for steering the Community well, since he assumed the reins of the regional bloc in May 2017.
“I thank President Museveni. He has been very supportive,” said Mr. Mfumekeko. “He has always given me audience when I needed it.”
The Secretary General, noting that the EAC marks 20 years this year, listed several milestones attained by the Community in the field of infrastructure, education and health, among others.
The single customs territory, according to Mr. Mfumekeko, is in progress and measures already adopted, like one-stop border posts, are making it easier to do business in the region.
He said Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda were now recognizing national identity cards as travel documents, adding: “The EAC of today is not that of 20 years ago. We are more vibrant with more improved change in socio-economic spheres.”
BUSINESS COMMUNITY APPEALS
Addressing the assembly, the Chairman of the East African Business Community, Mr. Nicholas Nesbitt, challenged the regional economic bloc to walk the talk on integration.
“Let us think region before we think nation. Let us have an East African perspective to business. It is shameful that 150 million buy second-hand shoes, clothes, from third parties yet our cotton industries are dying, our ginneries degenerating,” said Mr. Nesbitt, who is also the General Manager IBM East Africa.
“Let us produce value. We should manufacture and not just be traders. Let us create value chains. If Kenya assembles cars in Thika, why should the tyres not be made in Tanzania, the exhaust pipes in Uganda and dashboards in Rwanda? Let it be a truly East African car,” he said.
NEW JUDGE SWEARS-IN
At the Summit, Tanzania’s Justice Sauda Mujasiri, was sworn in as a Judge of the Appellate Division of the East African Court of Justice.