BY MWAI KIBAKI
(This is an abridged speech by President Mwai Kibaki during the 12th Summit of the EAC Heads of State in Arussha, Tanzania, on December 3)
Allow me at the outset to congratulate President Pierre Nkurunziza for assuming the Chairmanship of the East African Community. I wish to assure you of my support, and indeed the support of all Kenyans in the discharge of your responsibilities.
I would also wish to commend President Jakaya Kikwete for ably chairing our Community for the past one year. Under your chairmanship, we have achieved important milestones that have brought enormous benefits to the people of East Africa .
Our meeting today comes at a historic moment. This year, we celebrate five years of implementation of the East African Community Customs Union and the commencement of the Common Market. The Customs Union, which we established in 2005, has indeed generated the intended positive results over the last five years of its operation. This is clearly demonstrated by the growth in intra-E.A.C. trade over the period.
I commend the business community in our region for embracing the Customs Union. We encourage them to continue playing their rightful role in the East African Community. Trade and investment are key drivers for economic growth. We therefore need to re-double our efforts to improve the business environment in our region. In this regard, a number of areas need to be addressed.
First, in spite of implementing the Customs Union, numerous non-tariff barriers such as prolonged clearing procedures and regulations have continued to pose a negative impact on trade. Strategies to address this problem including the mechanisms for identifying, monitoring and eliminating these barriers should be strengthened and fully implemented.
Secondly, the full benefits of our trade initiatives will not be realized until the Small and Micro Enterprises sector is facilitated to do business in the regional arena. Across the whole region, a majority of our people are engaged in running various forms of S.M.E. businesses. These include small farms, shops, kiosks, I.C.T. start-ups, restaurants, transport services amongst others. Their operational capacities are, however, too small for them to compete on equal footing with large companies. Efforts, therefore, need to be stepped up to promote this important sector since it has enormous potential to create jobs for our youth and stimulate economic growth.
Thirdly, to realize the benefits of a working Customs Union, we must have efficient and effective infrastructure systems, including roads, railways, aviation, I.C.T. and energy. As the region aspires to deepen the integration process, the development of modern infrastructure is indeed a critical foundation.
We need to upgrade and modernize our railway network and extend it to other parts of the Community. The amount of resources required for this kind of network overhaul, which is estimated at 29 billion U.S. Dollars, is beyond the immediate capacity of the Partner States. This underscores the need for combined efforts by all stakeholders including the governments themselves, the private sector and development partners.
We must also have additional power generation capacity and inter-connected transmission infrastructure. While noting the ongoing work in this area, it is imperative for us to aggressively push the agenda of regional electricity integration. This will enable us to meet the growing power needs of our region.
Peace and stability in the Horn of Africa remains a priority of the East African Community. On Sudan , the referendum on Southern Sudan scheduled for early next year is on course. We continue to encourage the leadership of both the National Congress Party and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement to remain committed to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and to abide by the outcome of the referendum.
In Somalia , the Transitional Government continues to face the difficult challenge of bringing law and order. The impact of this scenario has moved beyond our region. An escalation in piracy off the coast of Somalia and in the Indian Ocean now threatens regional as well as international security and trade.
The reluctance of the United Nations Security Council to get seriously engaged in the process of bringing order in Somalia despite being urged to do so remains a matter of grave concern to us. Our position on this matter has not changed; our call remains the same – the international community needs to take advantage of the opportunities created by regional bodies including I.G.A.D. and African Union to support the search for durable peace and stability in Somalia .
In conclusion, I would like to commend the Council of Ministers for their dedication and good work in the furtherance of the East African integration process. I also commend the entire EAC Secretariat for their dedication to the success of the East African Community. Further, I thank our development partners for the support they have continued to extend to the Community. I note with satisfaction that there is growing interest in accrediting their envoys to the EAC. I have no doubt that this will help deepen our partnership.
Finally, I reaffirm the commitment of my Government to the East African Community integration process. We are convinced that this is an effective vehicle for economic development and shared prosperity of the people of East Africa . We shall, therefore, continue to prioritize the Community’s agenda in the operations of my Government.