President Yoweri Museveni has said that Uganda spends US$880 million on the annual importation of textiles coming from outside the East African region, including second-hand clothes.
Addressing EALA at the commencement of the 4th Meeting of the 5th Session in Kampala, the President said textiles, apparels, shoes and automotive constitute some of the industries whose products could either be made in the region or locally assembled.
“We (EAC) cannot continue to be a market for imports,” the Head of State said, adding: “We need to use the policy instruments to ensure local production.”
President Museveni also rooted for enhanced economic integration as an impetus to ensuring a stronger bloc necessary for the region’s prosperity, and called on the region to embrace ‘a Make EAC, Buy EAC’ initiative in order to protect jobs and stimulate investments in the market.
Further, he urged the region to take advantage of its population size which he termed ‘a resource for the EAC’.
“If there is wealth of the East African region, which many do not talk about often – this is the population of the region. It is one of the most important factors given that it has 162 million people including the Republic of South Sudan”, President Museveni said. The President maintained population of the EAC was a wealth creator made up of producers of goods and services through offering skilled, unskilled and intellectual competencies as well as consumers.
The President said the region was consolidating on its gains in Infrastructure and said opening of a new Berth at the port of Mombasa, construction of the Standard Gauge Railway, improvement of roads in Kenya and Tanzania, as well as stable electricity would ensure the costs of doing business were reduced.
He reiterated that EAC Political Federation would in the long run ensure stability and the future safety of Africa and termed unification of the region as a strategic security for the EAC in the face of the world powers.
The President called for the conservation of the environment saying it was a serious issue that needs to be addressed. He maintained that Uganda and the EAC region would need to restore the wetlands as a matter of priority, and avoid tilling the surrounding areas to grow rice and other crops, saying the practice was further debilitating the amount of rain across the entire EAC region.
President Museveni hailed East Africans for fighting Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) saying the cultural practice was outdated and cruel. On social cohesion, the President rooted for Kiswahili saying it was a unifying factor for the entire region. He said Kiswahili was widely spoken among the over 160 million inhabitants at the EAC.
In attendance were key government officials, legislators from the Parliament of Uganda, representatives of the diplomatic corps, representatives of the private sector as well as the representatives of the EAC Youth Ambassadors platform among others.
In his welcome remarks, the Speaker of the EALA, Rt. Hon Daniel F. Kidega noted that the Sitting was taking place at an irreversible time in the regional integration process.
He called on the region to prioritise food security in the advent of climate change and to have contingency programs to address the looming famine, the region was likely to face.
The Speaker called for the maintenance of peace and security in the region saying the stability of Partner States was vital for progress. He urged the region to embrace democratic ideals and good governance. The Speaker further called for free and fair elections in the region, and wished Kenya and Rwanda ‘free, peaceful and credible elections’.
At the Plenary, the Assembly has the following notable business: Debate on the Gender Equality and Development Bill, 2016, Administration of the East African Court of Justice Bill, 2016 and the EAC Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Bill, 2016.
Other matters include receiving and debating various Reports of Committees of EALA including that of the audit and on the status of railway infrastructure development in the Partner States.
This is the last Sitting of the Assembly in the Republic of Uganda in line with the Principle of rotation. The Assembly has two more sittings before its tenure ends in June 2017.