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EAC boss to concentrate on regional trade and peace next year

ARUSHA– Deepening economic integration, strengthening regional peace and security mechanisms, and implementing the road map for the attainment of the East African Community [ EAC ] Monetary Union are some of Dr. Peter Mathuki’s key priorities in steering the regional integration agenda in the next year.

The EAC Secretary General underscored these priorities during a virtual forum dubbed, ‘State of the EAC Forum – SG’s 1 year in office,’ seeking to share the progress, achievements, and challenges of the EAC in the last year, and the way forward.

He listed the admission of the Democratic Republic of Congo [DRC] into the bloc, adoption of 35 percent as the 4th Band of the EAC Common External Tariff, and resolution of 23 pressing Non-Tariff Barriers [NTBs] among the key achievements the Community registered during the last year.

“On November 12, 2021, the EAC Sectoral Council on Trade, Industry, Finance and Investment [SCTIFI] finalized and adopted the review of the EAC Elimination of Non-Tariff Barriers Act, 2017 and referred it to the EAC Sectoral Council on Legal and Judicial Affairs for legal scrubbing,” noted Dr. Mathuki.

Further, he shared that five EAC Partner States had launched their own Trade Information Portal [TIP]. The portals map out all imports, exports and transit procedures, including fees and time in the respective Partner States in an effort to enhance regional trade.

“The Secretariat is currently mobilizing funds to enable the Republic of South Sudan develop its own Trade Information Portal so as to minimize trade bottlenecks in the region,” he added.

On the Monetary Union, the Secretary General shared that four EAC Partner States; Burundi, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania have expressed interest and submitted their applications to host the East African Monetary Institute [EAMI].

“A verification Committee undertook a verification mission to the Partner States that have applied to host EAMI, to verify their suitability, and compiled a report that will be tabled before the 42nd Meeting of the Council of Ministers scheduled for later this month,” said the Secretary General.

On the EAC Political Federation, Mathuki revealed that national consultations for the drafting of the EAC Political Confederation Constitution have so far been held in the Republics of Burundi and Uganda, and plans are at an advanced stage to hold similar consultations in Tanzania, Rwanda, Kenya and South Sudan in the 2022/2023 Financial Year.

In highlighting the challenges faced by the Community in the last one year, the Secretary General pronounced the Covid-19 pandemic as a major challenge. “The Covid-19 pandemic grossly affected the implementation of the Community’s activities, projects and programmes,” said Mathuki.

He also noted that efforts where underway to ensure the conclusion of the process of developing a sustainable funding mechanism for the Community.

“The conclusion of the sustainable funding mechanism will address the financial challenges that the Community is experiencing, as we continue to engage with development partners to support EAC projects and programs,” he added.

“The EAC will in the coming year focus on strengthening regional governance, political commitment, and inclusivity to improve peace and security in the build-up to an EAC Political Confederation. In addition, the EAC will also prioritise Infrastructure development and increased participation of different stakeholders such as the private sector in the regional integration process,” Mathuki said.

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