, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 25 – President Mwai Kibaki on Tuesday emphasised the need to conclude the remaining annexes to the Protocol on the Common Market to enable the East African Community to benefit from a working single market.
While the business community has continued to play a commendable role of embracing the Customs Union and investing in various parts of the region, the Head of State stressed the need for an improved business environment in the region.
Towards this end, President Kibaki enumerated a number of areas which need to be addressed, including elimination of the Non-Tariff Barriers such as prolonged clearing procedures and regulations that have continued to make doing business in East Africa expensive.
Addressing the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) fourth session in Nairobi, President Kibaki said the sittings came at a critical moment when the pace of integration had gained momentum with the implementation of both the Customs Union and the Common Market Protocol.
He commended EALA for the oversight role it played and the legislative achievements the August assembly had made.
"As we embark on the EAC flagship projects and programmees it is my hope that the assembly will play its rightful role to ensure their timely and effective implementation," observed the President.
He re-affirmed the government\’s commitment to the East African Community (EAC) integration process as an effective tool for the economic development and prosperity of the region.
The President commended the progress made in the implementation of the Customs Union established in 2005 and the Common Market launched in July last year saying it had increased interest from both the citizenry in the region and foreign investors who continue to inquire on the available opportunities.
"This is clearly demonstrated by the trend in intra-EAC trade over the period. For example, the value of the total intra-EAC trade rose from 1.8 billion US dollars in 2004 to 3.5 billion US dollars in 2009 representing a growth of 94 percent. A closer look at both the exports and imports of each one of the partner states reveals similar upward trends," said the President.
President Kibaki encouraged the EALA members to pay special attention to this area and develop viable solutions to the problem saying their efforts have continued to play a significant role in deepening and widening the integration process.
"For the East African Community to emerge as a competitive trading area, there is a need to upgrade and modernise the outdated railways network while at the same time extending it to other parts of the Community" Mr Kibaki said.
"I have no doubt that although the amount of money required for this kind of network overhaul is huge, this can be achieved if all stakeholders work together," he added.
President Kibaki stressed the need to develop strategies that will support the small and micro-enterprises sector and make the business environment conducive in the regional arena.
On the recent referendum in the Sudan, President Kibaki, commended the leadership of both the National Congress Party and the Sudan People\’s Liberation Movement for supporting the outcomes of the democratic process and expressed optimism that the outcome of the vote would have positive implications for the East African Community.
As part of the integration process, President Kibaki invited EALA legislators to visit Kenya\’s countryside to sensitise and demystify the working of the assembly to locals.
East African Legislative Assembly Speaker Abdirahim Abdi said the session took place at a time when the negotiations on the EAC Monetary Union, being the third step in the four-tire integration process, have commenced.
"Legislative business before the EALA fourth session sittings in Nairobi includes debate on the EAC Elections Bill – 2nd and 3rd Reading, the EAC Service Commission Bill 2nd Reading, the Lake Victoria Basin Commission Bill and the consideration of various Committee Reports and Motions," he said.
Mr Abdi said the Assembly was also marking its decade commemoration in all partner states this year, and whose climax will be in Arusha, Tanzania on November 29th.
On his part, National Assembly Speaker Kenneth Marende called on the East African partner states to increase the budget allocation to the agricultural sector to a minimum of 10 percent.
Mr Marende said East Africa needs to address the persistent food shortages so as to attain self sufficiency in food production.
EALA is of the view that the negotiations on the EAC Monetary Union, needs to be an all inclusive process linking all stakeholders in tandem with the directives of the EAC Summit in 2007 that decided to fast track the achievement of the Monetary Union by 2012.
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