ARUSHA, Tanzania, Jan11 – The implementation of the Common Market Protocol which is set to take place in the next six months will be one of the key focus for the East African Community (EAC) in 2010, Secretary General Juma Mwapachu has said.
While briefing his staff in Arusha, Mr Mwapachu indicated that as part of their 2010 agenda, EAC would also be targeting greater cooperation in defence matters and making progress on the Monetary Union and the Political Federation.
“The revival of negotiations for the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) as well plans for the EAC’s first ever summit on Food Security and Climate Change will also feature prominently,” he said of the stalled negotiations with the European Union.
The execution of the protocol which was signed in November last year was well within the July 2010 target he said. The five EAC Heads of State have already committed to have the protocol ratified by May this year.
The Secretary General also spoke of plans to upgrade the existing memoranda of understanding on defence matters into a legally-binding protocol. This exercise is expected to take place at a special forum in Kampala in February and should go a long way in increasing cooperation in defence, he added.
“Defence is the major mover of any political unity,” Mr Mwapachu remarked, adding that “creating a supranational entity like the planned political federation requires having the military onboard.”
In addition to hosting a special forum on defence, the EAC will host a conference for People With Disabilities (both in Kampala); the 3rd East African Investment Conference and hold a high-level conference on railway development as part of the activities outlined for the year.
A Bill that is designed to help the region fight counterfeits will also be tabled in the regional parliament. A clear roadmap as to when the Monetary Union is feasible is also expected to be developed.
According to the Secretary General, the Civil Aviation Safety and Security Oversight Agency (CASSOA) an institution of the EAC, will move its offices from Arusha to Entebbe in 2010.
“Cooperation with the EAC’s co-members in the Tripartite Taskforce, COMESA and SADC, is set to intensify as the three blocs work towards actualizing a Free Trade Area,” he disclosed.
Reflecting on 2009, Mr Mwapachu described the past year as a “watershed” as far as regional integration is concerned.
He pointed to the successfully-held 10th Anniversary celebrations and their role in elevating the identity and credibility of the EAC, and hailed staff for the diligence and commitment that has catapulted the East African Community into a model regional economic community.
While admitting that the Community had faced several challenges during the year Mr Mwapachu chose to reflect the successes and the achievements from that year, which he said set the tone for an even more fruitful 2010.