Arusha: The East African Community (EAC) Heads of State meeting in Arusha, Tanzania, have today Friday tasked President Museveni to oversee the political federation process of the 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 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 Burundi’s delegation was led by 1st Vice President Gastone Sindimu.
South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir was represented by his Minister for Trade and East African Affairs, Paul Mayom Akech.
Uganda’s Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa and the Ambassador to Tanzania Richard Kabonero graced the function.
Both President Kagame and Mr. Mfumekeko paid tribute to President Museveni for steering the community well, since he assumed the reins 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.”
On his part, President Kagame said this summit “comes at an important moment as we approach the 20th anniversary of the revival of the EAC. We have much to celebrate. But it is also a moment to reflect on the meaning and value of this Community which is important to all of us.”
He said EAC is an opportunity to “address whatever challenges exist directly and frankly, so that we can move confidently together into the future.”
Kagame emphasised that leaders cannot afford to “fall behind particularly when the EAC was starting to make good progress. It is up to us to ensure that this community works for us as it should.”
BUSINESS COMMUNITY APPEALS
Addressing the assembly, the Chairman of the East African Business Community, Nicholas Nesbitt, challenged the community 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.
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.