, NAIROBI, Kenya Feb 20 – Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete has officially taken over the chairmanship of the East African Community (EAC) from Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Kikwete took over the chairmanship during the 16th East Africa Community Summit in Nairobi.
Speaking after taking over, Kikwete said there is need to eliminate non-tariff barriers to intra-community trade with about 24 of them still unresolved.
He said the non-tariff barriers deny the EAC opportunity to unlock the immense promise of integration and starves businesses of innumerable opportunities.
“Intra-EAC non-tariff barriers translate to impediments to our region’s competitiveness as a global investment destination denying us uncountable golden opportunities,” he added.
He said that Tanzania is committed to stay on the course of regional integration.
“EAC intra-trade has significantly grown and there is need to increase these investments, we need to support the small and medium enterprises to drive the growth,” he said.
He said there is also need to strengthen peace and stability in the region for prosperity.
Handing over the chairmanship, President Uhuru Kenyatta said the importance of improved infrastructure in the community will enhance trade and reduce costs of production.
“We undertook to establish one-stop border posts at our major boundary points. There has been tremendous progress in putting these up, and a number are complete, awaiting official opening. They include Lunga-Lunga and Taveta on the Tanzania/Kenya border as well as Rusumo on the Uganda/Rwanda border. Upon commencement of full operations, we expect these facilities to support efficient transactions in our Community by reducing clearance times by up to 40 percent,” he added.
Intra-EAC trade grew from $3.5 billion in 2009 to about $5.8 billion in 2013.
“We have made progress and moved a good distance. But a lot remains to be done. I assure my brother, President Kikwete of my support and trust that he will take the integration agenda even further in the coming 12 months,” he said.
During the summit, Justice Aidace Ngiye and Lady Justice Monica Mugenyi were appointed as judges of the East African Court of Justice First Instance Division effective June 27, 2015 while Justice Kiryabwire Geoffrey was appointed judge of the EAC Appellate Division effective August 16, 2015.
EAC Heads of State also launched the EAC Telepresence Video Conferencing System that will see EAC meeting costs reduce by 30 percent annually.
EAC hosts about 800 meetings every year at a cost of $12 million (Sh1bn).