President Uhuru Kenyatta has urged the leaders of the East African Community (EAC) to expedite the implementation of programs and projects that will yield quick results for the benefit of the citizens of the EAC.
Acknowledging the progress made by the EAC since its re-establishment more than two decades ago, the President stressed the need for leaders to remain focused on the goals of the community in order to meet the desire for an inclusive integration process , fair and responsive that addresses the daily needs of EAC residents.
“Citizens are counting on us to accelerate and implement programs and projects that will transform our region. While the EAC is ranked among the most integrated Regional Economic Communities (RECs) in Africa, our citizens are yet to fully enjoy the freedoms and rights of integration.
“Therefore, our responsibility at all levels of leadership should be to ensure that community establishment goals are on track,” the president said.
President Kenyatta spoke on Friday when addressing the 22nd Ordinary Summit of East African Community Heads of State at the EAC headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania.
The Head of State said East African citizens must be involved in all stages of the integration process by sensitizing them to what is happening in the community as part of ensuring the inclusiveness.
“While I appreciate the efforts made by partner states as well as community bodies and institutions to raise awareness, I believe that we can and must do more to ensure that the people of East Africa are not not left behind in the integration process.
“Partnerships with all actors in the integration process are just as important. Experience has shown that partnership between stakeholders is the key to achieving sustainable development on a global scale. As we move forward, we must invest in strengthening collaboration with the private sector and development partners,” President Kenyatta said.
The President recalled that when re-establishing the EAC, the leaders were considering four pillars, namely customs union, common market, monetary union and political federation to drive the integration process.
“Among them, the operationalization of the customs union established in 2005 and the common market established in 2010 are in progress. Although at a slow pace, the community has also made significant progress in the Monetary Union whose protocol was ratified eight years ago,” the President said.
President Kenyatta took the opportunity to highlight some of the major achievements of the EAC during his tenure.
Achievements included ratification of the ambitious African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA) trade pact by all EAC states and deepening financial integration where local banks adopted a regionally driven business model by customer demand.
Other achievements include the declassification of seas along the East African coast by Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda to reduce the cost of insurance and shipping and reduce the cost of doing business via the ports of Lamu, Mombasa and Dar es Salaam.
President Kenyatta said it was also during his tenure as head of the EAC that Kenya and South Sudan waived visa requirements for their two citizens.
“In accordance with Article 10 of the EAC Common Market Protocol, the two Partner States have undertaken to allow workers from each of their countries to accept employment in the territory of the other. South Sudan and Uganda have also abolished visa requirements for their nationals,” the president said.
He added that during his tenure, Kenya and Uganda approved the construction of the Ksh 7 billion Angololo Irrigation and Water Resources Development Project which will benefit 127,000 people.
“The project will irrigate 3,300 hectares of agricultural land and supply water to 20,000 households in Busia and Bungoma counties in Kenya and Tororo district in Uganda. It will also generate 1.75 megawatts of hydroelectricity,” he said.
On the wider EAC region, President Kenyatta said he looked forward to Somalia’s admission into the regional economic bloc.
Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud attended the summit as a special guest and observer.
During the summit, President Kenyatta handed over the mantle of EAC leadership to President Ndayishimiye of Burundi and congratulated him on assuming the chairmanship of the EAC Heads of State Summit.
At the same time, President Kenyatta was appointed by the East African Community to be the facilitator of the peace process in DR Congo.
In their remarks, Host President Samia Suluhu Hassan and President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda commended President Kenyatta for his visionary leadership of the EAC which has seen the community register significant achievements during his tenure.
For his part, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who attended the summit as a special guest, affirmed his country’s commitment to join the EAC community.
Other speakers included Prime Ministers Édouard Ngirente of Rwanda and Jean-Michel SamaLukonde of DR Congo who represented Presidents Paul Kagame and Félix Antoine Tshisekedi respectively while South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit was represented by Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin during the one-day summit.
EAC Secretary General, Dr. Peter Mathuki, and Betty Maina, Acting Secretary of the East African Community and Regional Development of Kenya, who is also the Chairperson of the EAC Council of Ministers , also spoke at the summit organized under the theme “EAC: deepening integration, widening cooperation”.
Earlier, President Kenyatta and President Samia Suluhu Hassan presided over the official opening of the 42.4 km Arusha Bypass Road, one of three regional road projects that have benefited Arusha, the headquarters of the ‘EAC.
The others include the 14 km Arusha-Tengeru dual carriageway which forms part of the Arusha-Holili-Taveta-Voi road and the 243 km Arusha-Namanga-Athi River road which was completed and inaugurated by the leaders of the EAC in 2012.