By Michael Okidi
The 24th Meeting of the Sectoral Council of Ministers responsible for EAC Affairs and Planning came to a close in Nairobi yesterday, passing a number of resolutions aimed at enhancing the integration agenda through prompt implementation of projects and programmes formulated by the regional bloc.
The Council that is responsible for coordinating and monitoring the integration process in the EAC, took note of the slow pace of implementation of certain integration projects, and directed the relevant organs and institutions to ensure effective implementation of all decisions of the Summit.
Chaired by Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for East African Community, Labour and Social Protection, Mrs Phyllis Kandie, the meeting deliberated on the best way forward for the region’s Common Market initiative, whose full implementation, they noted, needed to be hastened.
The meeting reviewed the implementation status of the decisions made by the council in February 2016 and noted that though good progress that had been made by both the Partner States and EAC Organs and Institutions, there was urgent need to speed up completion of outstanding ones if the Community had to enjoy the fruits of integration
As a commitment to ensure effective implementation of regional projects and programmes, the council resolved that all sectoral councils and institutions will now be required to institute proper follow-up mechanisms to ensure they are fully implemented within the specified timeframes.
The Ministers also reviewed the implementation of the EAC Common Market Protocol which is now in the sixth year of operation. The Common Market provides for free movement of goods, persons/labour, services and capital; and right to residence and establishment.
All Partner States have been implementing their commitments under the Protocol. In addition a scorecard assessing the status of implementation of the Common Market is being prepared and will be ready before the end of 2016.
The meeting therefore directed the Secretariat to develop a comprehensive strategic framework with clear timelines on the implementation of the Common Market Protocol Scorecard findings and the Single Customs Territory and report to the next Meeting of the Sectoral Council responsible for EAC Affairs and Planning.
In line with the provision of the Treaty for the establishment of EAC, the Community established a forum for the civil society and private sector to participate in decision-making on EAC integration process. This forum has been making critical recommendations that have been shaping the integration process.
The Ministers received the report of the 4th meeting of the forum that took place in March 2016 and directed that the recommendations be directed to the relevant arms of the Community for consideration and implementation.
During the meeting, the Ministers considered the EAC Calendar of activities for the next six months leading to December 2016. The objective was to ensure that EAC activities are held in all the Partner States, close to the people of East Africa. Part of the recommendations in this decision included reinstatement of EAC meetings in Burundi, which had been temporarily stopped for security reasons.
The meeting has also considered the update on the elimination of Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs); COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Free Trade Agreement; and development of the 5th EAC Development Strategy which is under preparation.
On the issue of South Sudan’s admission into the EAC, the meeting directed the Secretariat to undertake a detailed roadmap, as per the directive of the Chairperson of the EAC Summit, towards the full admission of the Republic of South Sudan into the Community.
This will ensure establishment of modalities on representation of South Sudan into the EAC Organs and Institutions, hosting of some of the Community meetings including trade fairs in South Sudan and removal of visa requirements for other East African citizens visiting the country.
EAC Secretary General, Amb. Liberat Mfumukeko, who welcomed the Ministers to the meeting, expressed his optimism that with the right commitment, in particular the right resolve and determination to actualize the Customs Union, Common Market, and fast track the operationalisation of the Monetary Union and related projects and programmes of the Community, the region can, within 5 years, realize and enjoy a dramatic economic upturn.
He said that the East African region needed to move from the current average of 6.5% GDP growth to between 8% and 10% in the next five years in order to reverse the current high poverty levels.