By Michael Okidi – Public Communications

From Left: EALA MPs Mumbi Ngaru, Jeremie Ngendakumana (Burundi), Nancy Abisai (Kenya Chapter Chair), Sarah Bonaya, Peter mathuki, Makueni MP Daniel Maanzo and Nairobi businessman, David Masika, sing the EAC Anthem at the start of an EALA public sensitization forum at a Wote Town Hotel, Makueni County.An intensive public sensitization campaign mounted by the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) Kenya Chapter and the State Department for East African Community (EAC) Integration in Lower Eastern Counties of Kitui, Machakos and Makueni came to a close in Makuenui yesterday with a unified call for even more intensified public awareness campaign on the EAC integration process.

The campaign, which kicked off in Kitui in midweek, concluding at the Makueni Couty Headquarters of Wote yesterday, sought to enhance public awareness about the EAC integration agenda, and to provide a guide to Kenyan entrepreneurs, professionals and workers on the business, employment and consultancy opportunities available beyond the Kenyan borders and in the other Partner States of the EAC.

Mounted as part of the EALA Kenya Chapter and the State Department for EAC Integration performance targets, the public sensitization campaigns emanate directly from the EAC Treaty that declares the Integration process as people centered, hence requiring key stakeholders like EALA and other EAC organs to ensure the public are steadily aboard the integration journey. DSC2926

The EALA Kenya Chapter Chair, Nancy Abisai, who led the team of regional legislators in the three day campaigns, said the EAC integration presents a perfect opportunity for Kenyans to expand their investment horizons and venture into the regional market for enhanced profits.

She told a gathering at the Kitui Kenya Forestry Research Institute, which hosted the gathering that the Kenyan Chapter of the Regional Assembly would strive to reach all Kenyans at their respective County headquarters and explain the benefits, opportunities, and status of the EAC integration agenda, and how best they can make use of such opportunities.

“The EAC story is rich and carries immense value to the people of East Africa.  It is a story we must tell to the people, and ensure they properly understand and participate actively and profitably in the integration process,” the EALA MP said when the team paid a courtesy call on Kitui County Governor, Dr Julius Malombe.

She stressed on the important contributions the County Governments make to national development, and appealed to heads of the devolved units countrywide to ensure their policies and operational regulations take into consideration the EAC integration agenda so that their people also stake a claim to the benefits accruing from the regional bloc.

 DSC3056EALA Kenya Chapter Members Peter Mathuki, Sarah Bonaya, Mumbi Ngaru, Joseph Kiangoi and Saoli ole Nkanae and Burundian Chapter Member Jeremie Ngendakumana formed part of the team of facilitators during the sensitization forums.

Ms Abisai said the objective of the EAC integration is to enhance East African trade and economic development by promoting cross border business activities, commanding a global and African market for East African goods and services and eventually positioning the region as a leading economic hub.

The MP further appealed to County Governments to sponsor their small scale traders and artisans for regional trade exhibitions like the East African Jua Kali/Nguvu Kazi exchibitions where they can access and establish connections with more regional clients, besides selling their products beyond the Kenyan borders.

On his part, Governor Malombe praised the sensitization initiative, but insisted that they should be speeded up to equip all Kenyans, especially those in the rural areas and who produce goods whose markets sometimes fluctuate, with the necessary information on how to access the regional markets.

He noted that most people were still unaware of the EAC, and even most of those who knew about the regional bloc were still unaware of the available business and investment opportunities that they could exploit. DSC3163

The Governor suggested that the sensitization programmes should bring on board staff of Kenyan embassies serving in the other EAC Partner States so that Kenyan businessmen and other entrepreneurs venturing into those other states readily get assisted in securing business and work permits, which have in the past been the key impediments to cross border trade and skills transfers.

The Governor said his County Government was committed to human skills development, especially among the youth, and said they had trained over 2000 young prospective contractors in readiness for engagement within and beyond the county borders.

Such trained and qualified contractors, he said, would be encouraged to look beyond the Kenyan borders and secure lucrative contracts in the other EAC Partner State in the spirit of free movement of labour, capital, persons and rights of establishing businesses and residence across national borders.

He further revealed that his Government had divided the County into six economic and investment zones – a move aimed at not only turning the county into an exporter of goods and services, but attracting investors by ensuring the existence of a favorable investment climate.

The Governor further urged County residents, especially the youth, to strive to develop saleable artistic expressions and performances that could easily and profitably sell at the East African Cultural Exhibitions, held every two years, and whose objective is to exploit the untapped potential of the regional creative industries.

 DSC3115Elsewhere in Mavoko Sub-County of Machakos County, the EALA legislators and County leaders urged the local people to make use of the Nairobi-Athi River-Namanga-Arusha road, a key EAC project, in doing business with their Tanzanian neighbours since free movement of goods had been hastened by the establishment of One Stop Border Post (OSBP) facilities in key border crossing areas like Namanga.

Machakos County Commissioner Matilda Sakwa called for enhanced public awareness campaigns to educate the local people on the benefits accruable not only from trade with neighboring countries, but also on how they can benefit from the key infrastructural projects like the Northern Corridor from Mombasa through Nairobi to Uganda and Rwanda, and the Nairobi-Namanga-Arusha road, both of which pass through the county.

Ms Sakwa called for strengthening of Kenya’s key institutions, especially at the Counties, so that they move out of the Kenyan borders strong and capable of commanding a lead in the race for control of the regional market.

Similar sentiments were echoed by County Secretary, Helen Kiilu, who represented Machakos Governor, Dr Alfred Mutua as the occasion’s chief guest.

Ms Kiilu insisted that Kenyan Counties must strive to exploit their vast and unique human, natural and other resources in readiness for a share of the expanding regional market.

Mavoko Member of Parliament Patrick Makau, on his part, called for more consultations between the Governments of Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda in the wake of reports that Rwanda was considering engaging with Tanzania on an alternative railway line instead of the Standard Gauge Railway from Mombasa that was meant to extend to Kigali.

At the Makueni County forum in Wote Town, EALA Member Peter Mathuki called upon County Governments to each dedicate a special ministry to be in charge of the EAC regional integration, much the same way as the National Governments of all the Partner States are obligated by the EAC Treaty to have in place Ministries coordinating the integration agenda.

Mr Mathuki noted that Kenya had a lot to gain from the EAC integration process, and would not allow small issues like the Migingo Island controversy to cloud the mutual relationship that exists between the two countries, being partner states in the integration agenda.  His sentiments were a reaction to a concern raised by a participant over the seeming failure to sort out the Migingo Island controversy, where Kenyan fishermen have often clashed with Ugandan police.

At the same time, EALA MP Jeremie Ngendakumana from Burundi narrated the various benefits Burundi nationals had enjoyed since they joined the EAC bloc, citing educational opportunities in Kenyan schools and universities for Burundian students and access to key goods and services from the other Partner States.

He said the use of national identification documents to cross EAC Partner States’ borders and the use of single tourist visas would greatly improve free movement of people and tourism growth respectively.  Burundi and Tanzania, he said, were yet to embrace the use of ID cards owing to absence of machine-readable cards, on which the two states were currently working to make the system a reality.

Makueni MP Daniel Maanzo and Nairobi businessman David Masika, told the local people to take seriously the EAC integration agenda, and try to exploit the trade, investment and employment opportunities that would be created through the EAC bloc.