The East African Community (EAC) Secretary General Mfumukeko has Thursday launched the much-anticipated ‘The East Africa I Deserve’ campaign to celebrate its 20th anniversary.
Mfumukeko said the citizen engagement campaign is aimed at provoking a reflection of achievements and challenges over the past 20 years to create new momentum that inspires citizens to embrace EAC integration.
“This campaign will enable your EAC citizens, particularly the online community to use the digital space as your platform for engaging us,” said Mfumukeko at the launch ceremony held at EAC headquarters in Arusha.
Observers say the move is a big step forward for the EAC secretariat as it works around the clock to sensitize it’s people about the benefits of regional integration.
EAC continues to grapple with non-tariff barriers slowing down cross border trade, inadequate citizens’ awareness, poor financing of the secretariat and mistrust among some member states.
Yet, regional integration is expected to create wider market with a combined population of over 160million people and GDP of about US$170billion.
Other benefits include freedoms under Common Market, safeguarding the region from international economic shocks and a Common External Tariff to protect the community’s domestic industries.
Mfumukeko said the one-year campaign targeting a reach of 10 million people is expected to “ignite sustained enthusiasm and create a new momentum that will inspire us all to embrace the integration agenda.”
“It will, among other things, include social media interfaces and original videos and animations competition, involving all our six partner states,” said Mfumukeko.
“This campaign will enable you citizens, particularly the online community, to use the digital space as your platform for engaging us at the EAC Secretariat, Partner States, the East African Legislative Assembly, the East African Court of Justice and all institutions of the bloc,” said Mfumukeko.
“Please, do not hesitate to use the platform for sharing your views on success stories, challenges and the region you want to proudly live in the next 20 years,” he added.
“This high-spirited crusade will create opportunities for you, the EAC citizens, to express yourselves on how you feel in 20 years of the EAC integration agenda and what should be done for it to work better for your lives in the coming years.”
A prize of $25,000 awaits the 30 innovative winners in the competition.
The EAC SG spoke at a youth-dominated event, emphasizing the role of young people in the transformation of Africa.
“Demographics dictate that the youth must actively engage in integration process,” said Mfumukeko as young people cheered on.
The youth account for over 65% of East Africa’s total population hence the need to capture and incorporate their dreams and aspirations in the integration agenda, said Mfumukeko.
“Most of the EAC youth today being Information and Communication Technology (ICT) savvy prompted us at the EAC Secretariat to begin this major campaign with the Youth Video and Animations Competition,” said Mfumukeko, adding, “More activities will be unveiled in the coming months. Watch out for more details in the coming weeks.”
“The whole idea behind the maiden video and animations drive is to enable you the youth to capture real life stories about benefits the EAC had on the citizens’ lives, narrate challenges the EAC citizens are facing that we can jointly address, or to apprehend the citizens’ aspirations of the future EAC you want.”
Mfumukeko said the video and animation competition will encourage constructive and innovative coverage of the integration process in the media hence providing ordinary East Africans, potential investors and tourists with insights the existence of vast opportunities in the region.
The EAC SG said men and women in the region have sacrificed a lot in the past 20 years to support integration efforts hence the need for a “pat on the back.”