ARUSHA, Tanzania, Apr 28 – President Uhuru Kenyatta has called for the quickening of the pace of integration of East African region by removing the obstacles that slow down the process.
Appreciating that in the last 12 years the East African Community has launched and implemented the Customs Union and Common Market protocols, President Kenyatta observed that the community still has not achieved the level of free movement of people, goods and investment as envisaged.
“Our people still experience unnecessary complications in achieving the ideals of a Common Market. Non-Tariff Barriers and other impediments have greatly reduced the benefits that we should already be enjoying,” President Kenyatta said.
The President said his Government’s priority is to work with all the East African Community member states towards eliminating those barriers so that there can be free movement throughout the region.
President Kenyatta made the remarks Sunday when he addressed the 11th Extra Ordinary Summit of the East African Community in Arusha, Tanzania.
“That is why I look forward to the time when we can meet together to sign into being the East African Community Monetary Union and a Single Customs
Territory because only through deeper integration and greater economic links between our countries, will we be able to deliver on the promise of our independence,” the President said.
Reaffirming his support for the goal of ultimate regional integration, the Head of State expressed confidence that the efforts of the East African
Community will enhance the welfare of the people of the region.
He observed that the recession in Europe and the West and rising costs in China and the East mean that for the first time since independence it is Africa which is driving the world economy forward.
“In 2011, eight out of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world were to be found in our continent,” the President said.
Noting that Africa has a chance to redefine itself, the President said African nations are faced with the opportunity to take their place on the world stage as equal actors able to partner with any state or region as they are guided by their discretion, principles and beliefs.
“Our continent is ready to take-off and East Africa will be the engine that gives momentum to Africa’s potential. We have an opportunity to transform our nations and build our own shared future together. The Government and the people of Kenya look forward to working with each one of you in fulfilling that task,” the President said.
The President emphasized that future development of the region depends on its ability to trade, saying it is not just a question of lowering tariffs but also of improving the physical capacity to deliver prosperity and the links between EAC countries.
“We must push forward with major infrastructure projects such as ports, water ways, rail network, roads and energy as part of a wider regional partnership rather than just as individual state projects,” the President said.
President Kenyatta underscored the need for EAC countries to work together to promote the region and the resources that they share around the world to attract new investments to grow their economies.
He added that the region should join hands in better managing its resources including oil, gas, wildlife and landscape, saying what happens in one nation impacts on all of them.
“Only by working collaboratively will we be able to effectively balance our economic interests with the needs to preserve and enhance our natural resources.”
On peace and stability, the President said the two critical ingredients to future development and prosperity of the Community must be safeguarded.
He said that is why Kenya has acted so decisively together with her brothers and sisters in Africa to combat the scourge of terrorism and restore peace to Somalia.
The President stressed that Kenya will continue with that advocacy and work closely with partner states in promoting peace in the region and beyond.
“We must continue to combat collectively the threat of terrorism in our region and I laud the singular and determined efforts of the EAC leaders in this regard,” the President said.
In addition to combating terrorism, President Kenyatta said Kenya looks forward to working with partner states in fighting poaching which has become a major threat to wildlife and the region’s tourism industry.
Thanking the East African people at large for the prayers and goodwill messages during and after the recent general elections in Kenya, the
President said Kenya is proud to be a member of EAC.
Speaking during the Summit the EAC Chairman President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni observed that the region is endowed with a lot of natural resources that need to be fully exploited for faster development.
He further noted that the member states have to pull their resources together especially in the development of the human resource in order to ensure that the region realize faster development in the various sectors.
President Museveni also maintained that the EAC is not only for economic growth but also for political integration that needs to be enhanced in the region.
In his part, the EAC Secretary General Dr Richard Sezibera noted that democracy in the region has come of age as it was demonstrated during the last month’s peaceful elections in Kenya. Adding that the region has a lot of potential in the development in various fields.
The summit was attended by the host President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, President Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi and Prime Minister Dr Pierre Damien Habumuremyi of Rwanda.
Earlier President Kenyatta held talks with President Museveni during a courtesy in which they discussed on a wide range of issues of bilateral and regional interest.