President Uhuru Kenyatta, a strong protagonist of regional integration, has said that intra-EAC trade has grown from US1.8 billion to US5.1 billion, representing a 190 per cent improvement since the Customs Union was established eleven years ago.
Mr Kenyatta made the observation in a brief to the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) special sitting of the 3rd Meeting of the 5th Session held at the Parliament Chambers in Nairobi, Kenya.
“I note with appreciation the progress that the Community has made to date. Eleven (11) years ago, we established the EAC Customs Union. It has generated positive results. This is clearly demonstrated by the trend in intra-EAC trade over the period. For instance, the value of the total intra-EAC trade rose from US Dollars 1.8 billion in 2004 to US Dollars 5.1 billion US Dollars in 2015 representing a significant growth of 190 percent,” Mr Kenyatta said in a speech read on his behalf by Kenya’s Speaker of the Senate, Ekwe Ethuro.
According to Mr Kenyatta, EALA should ensure the integration process is not only on course, but geared towards meeting the aspirations and high expectations of the people.
‘In this regard, the President is calling on the Assembly to up the stakes on the sensitisation process and on its consultations with legislative processes including engagement with the Partner States’National Assemblies as envisioned under Article 65 of the Treaty of the Establishment of the EAC,’ a release by the EAC states in part.
The President also hailed the business community whom he termed keen partners and drivers of the integration process. “I laud and commend them for their efforts in boosting our investment profile and partnership in creating jobs for our people. We are therefore duty-bound to support them in addressing the challenges they face in conducting and expanding their businesses in the region”, he added.
The speech noted the various challenges the region continues to face.“There still exists a considerable number of trade restricting measures that are a hindrance to actualizing free trade in the EAC. Among the obstacles, include long clearing procedures; road blocks and changes in applicable regulations, which together, contribute to impact trade negatively”, it said in part.
The Head of State reiterated Kenya’s commitment to the integration process and cited the infrastructure projects as keen in the integration process.
“We have every reason to take pride in what we have achieved in here in Kenya. We have commenced work on the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) and we expect it to be operational by the middle of 2017. On-going development works on the Port of Mombasa and regional roads confirms Kenya’s commitment to building and achieving sound infrastructure for the greater benefit of the region”, he said.
The President noted that EAC needed a strong oversight body and hailed the EALA for rising up to the occasion.
“For example, among the notable achievements of this Assembly include the passage of over 20 Bills cutting across various areas of integration. The Assembly’s legislative priority and performance in the last four years has indeed exhibited clear appreciation and understanding of matters that are of great relevance and urgency in deepening and widening the EAC integration”, the President remarked.
In his remarks, the Speaker of EALA, Rt Hon Daniel Kidega, maintained that citizens of the region were keen to see the process of integration fortified.
“I can confirm the Assembly is often inundated by citizens’ concerns to see the Common Market agenda become a reality. Essentially, it is important that we open our East African markets to African people and beyond to create jobs and opportunities. Likewise, we must avoid situations where we export jobs and allow cheap goods from outside the EAC to permeate the local markets”, Speaker Kidega noted.
The Speaker noted the fight against Corruption needs to be taken a notch higher in the Partner States. “At the regional level, EALA is on the verge of enacting a Bill on Whistleblowers and on Anti-Corruption, thereby, putting in place a legal framework to report instances of corruption to authorities – given the fact that the vice knows no borders”, he added.
He termed the approximation of the national laws in order to create uniformity within the Partner States as necessary and called on the Partner States to move with haste in the matter.
An EALA Report adopted at the Sitting shows that Rwanda and Uganda have each approximated ten pieces of laws each, Kenya (6 laws), Tanzania (6 laws) and Burundi (3 laws).
In attendance were EALA Members, former Members led by Speaker Emeritus, Rt Hon Abdirahim Abdi and representatives of the private sector.
The next plenary expected to be held in January in 2017.