PUBLISHED ON January 19th, 2015

EAC records vital moves in 2014

East African Community (EAC) partner states made significant progress in furthering regional integration during 2014.

The EAC Secretary General, Dr. Richard Sezibera said, the EAC made rapid strides by ratifying and implementing several protocols and agreements.

“The Single Customs Protocol has been properly implemented in the northern and southern corridors,” he told a news conference at the EAC’s Arusha headquarters last week.

The northern corridor runs from the Kenyan port city of Mombasa to Ugandan capital Kampala, before continuing on to Rwandan capital Kigali. The southern corridor runs from the Tanzanian port city of Dar es Salaam to Burundian capital Bujumbura and Kigali.

Briefing the media on the EAC’s achievements in 2014 and the way forward, Dr. Dr.Sezibera said the partner states had introduced a ‘single window’ at the two ports, which are the two main entry and exit points to the region. He said member states had also introduced an electronic cargo tracking system.

“All documentation and transactions regarding the movement of goods are done at one point in order to reduce business costs and time spent,” he said.

“By implementing the Single Customs Protocol, roadblocks and other non-tariff barriers have been reduced significantly within the entire EAC region,” he said.

The Secretary General said during the 2014/15 financial year, member states have invested in major road and rail projects.

Dr. Sezibera said, “While Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi are investing in central railway corridor projects, which will also connect the region to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kenya is engaging in a standard gauge rail that will facilitate business between Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan, which has already applied to join the EAC.

In 2014, the EAC members had started to implement a number of energy and power agreements, one of which saw Kenya sell nearly 30 megawatts of electricity to Rwanda.

“Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi are also implementing power projects through the Rusumo hydro-power project in the Ngara district (northwestern Tanzania),” he said.

On tourism the Dr. Sezibera said, the bloc intends to become “a single tourist area” under its vast regional integration project. “We want to make the East African Community a single tourist area with a single tourist visa,” he said.

The use of the Single Tourist Visa has been in force since last year for Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya. However, Tanzania has also announced that it wants to join the scheme. “This is very important. Burundi has also expressed interest in joining the system,” Dr. Sezibera said.

The EAC, he added, had worked to promote better relations between Tanzania and Rwanda. “Media fraternity within the EAC region has also played a very important role in harmonizing the situation by positive and assertive reporting,” Dr. Sezibera, himself a Rwandan national, said.

Diplomatic relations between Tanzania and Rwanda soured in 2013, with Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete and Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame refusing to meet face to face at several official EAC functions.

During that period, Tanzania launched an operation against illegal immigrants that saw large numbers of Rwandans – many of whom had lived in the country for decades – being deported back home.

The EAC has also set up a team to monitor general elections in Burundi and Tanzania, slated for June and October respectively.

“The Burundi team will be led by former Tanzanian Prime Minister and Vice-President Joseph Sinde Warioba, who will be assisted by former EAC Secretary-General Amanya Mushega,” Dr. Sezibera said.

The team will meet, talk and listen to Burundi’s key stakeholders to ensure that all Burundians have a single goal before and after the elections – namely, to develop their country.

According to Sezibera, the same will be done during Tanzania’s constitutional referendum to be held in April and later during the general election slated for October, 2015.

Source: East African Business Week

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