Integration is not the work of an individual; it needs joint action

East African Community Secretary General Dr Richard Sezibera. PHOTO | FILE |  NATION MEDIA GROUP

What were your biggest achievements during your term?

The East African Community is now a Single Customs Territory. Non-tariff barriers along our major corridors have been reduced; intra-EAC trade has grown to 26 per cent of the total from less than 10 per cent a decade ago. The free movement of persons and labour under the Common Market has also picked up.

We launched the use of national identity cards as travel documents across borders while the recent 17th Heads of State Summit launched an International East African Passport.

The region now has a prioritised infrastructure plan and investment strategy in railways, energy, ports and harbours, inland waterways and ICT. The Summit now holds infrastructure summits every two years to review progress.

We have developed an industrialisation policy with prioritised sectors, which is under implementation.
The EAC has agreed on a Vision 2050, aiming to turn it into an upper middle-income region by that year, with a per capita income of over $10,000.

The people of East Africa have increasingly become key players in the integration agenda; new institutions are onboard including the East African Science and Technology Commission, the East African Health Research Commission and the East African Kiswahili Commission.

We have strengthened and automated internal governance systems and reached an agreement on an institutional review of EAC organs and institutions that had been pending for a decade. Finally, the Community has expanded with the admission of South Sudan as a new member.

Any challenges?

The only strategic threat I see is the lack of focus or a narrow focus on nationalistic agendas. Domestication of decisions made at the regional level is sometimes slow. This has delayed the full implementation of the Common Market Protocol.

But as the integration agenda deepens, the EAC will have to design mechanisms for faster, cost-effective decision making, pool partner states’ sovereignty into central entities with the capacity to drive the agenda, and agree on a sustainable financing mechanism.

Non-tariff barriers are still a challenge to trade in the region. How should they be tackled?

Unlike other challenges, NTBs are technical but they can be resolved. The thing about NTBs is that you eliminate one only for it to be replaced by another. The most important thing, however, is to focus on the bigger picture, and build capacity for execution.

Political will is key. Many of these bottlenecks, including the removal of roadblocks, rationalisation of weighbridges and streamlining bureaucracy do not require heavy investments, just political will.

The EAC Secretariat has established a time-bound programme for the elimination of NTBs; it is being implemented in close collaboration with partner states.

If you were to start all over again, what would you do differently?

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