NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 19 – The Secretary General of the East African Community (EAC) Richard Sezibera says poor infrastructure is the greatest impediment to regional integration.
Speaking to Capital FM News, he said that although great strides have been made toward the free movement of goods, capital and labour, poorly maintained transport systems limit this.
“Our roads are overburdened, our rail is not working as it should; our boats and harbours are clogged with too much traffic and little capacity. Our inland waterways, rivers and lakes, are not used at all for transport. Infrastructure is probably the biggest challenge that I see for East African integration,” he said.
Sezibera is however optimistic that the infrastructure problem will be resolved in due time after the partner states agreed to prioritise development for the next 10 years in November last year.
“With or without East African integration it would be a challenge but now that the five countries are together they can pool their resources and make sure we have the right infrastructure for trade.”
Another hurdle slowing down the integration of Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Burundi – the five EAC partner states – is the hesitance to sometimes sacrifice a nation’s interest for the greater good of the EAC.
“People are very focused on national issues and on their own sovereignty and sometimes that makes them lose the bigger picture.”
Even in the face of these challenges, Sezibera says the integration of the EAC is taking place at a good pace, “East African integration is probably the fastest growing in the world because what Europe for example achieved in 50 years we have achieved in less than 50 years now.”
“Sometimes there is frustration with some of the things which hinder free movement of goods especially roadblocks, the delays at borders, the weigh bridges and we must deal with them but I think East African regional integration has moved quite fast.”
In addition to forming a single customs territory, the EAC also hopes to conclude negotiations on a monetary union protocol by the end of the year and is also lobbying for the formation of a political federation.
“We are having discussions on the form of the envisaged political federation so there is a document that has been sent to all the countries to consult on so I am optimistic we are making headway.”