Michael Okidi – Public Communication 17/2/2017

Stakeholders in the East African Community (EAC) Integration process now want Kenyan regional integration policy makers and planners to develop a national strategic plan around which the country’s engagement with her regional neighbours should rotate.

Meeting under a grouping dubbed Friends of EAC at a Nairobi hotel yesterday, the stakeholders further insisted on a clearly structured engagement in matters of regional integration, if Kenya’s position as a leading economic power in the region is too be sustained.

They noted that through the proposed national strategic plan, Kenya would clearly mark out her strategic interests, which must be safeguarded throughout the various regional integration engagements. This, they noted, would safeguard the country’s growth and prosperity policy while at the same time lending adequate support to the integration process.

The Friends of EAC, who included former Permanent Secretaries, diplomats and university dons, suggested that Kenya must now work towards diversification of its economic activities and introduce new, attractive products for a firmer grip on the regional market.

They also noted the need to come up with clear indicators about identification of each EAC Partner State’s unique competitive advantages, which should then be harnessed to help avoid unnecessary intra-regional competitions.

However, the stakeholders were categorical that in all her moves, both to protect her strategic interests and achieve her regional trade goals, the country must strictly work in line with the existing regulations as set out in the Treaty for the establishment of the EAC.

In this way, they noted, the feelings, opinions and national interests of the other Partner States would be recognized and respected for the smooth realization of the EAC integration goals.

The Principal Secretary in charge of EAC Integration, Betty Maina, who hosted the forum, concurred that the identification of Kenya’s strategic interests in regard to regional integration would help in formulating and implementing policies and programmes that would be of regional and national benefit.

She noted that the continued growth in intra-EAC trade had made it necessary for the Partner States to lay emphasis on policies and programmes that would enhance regional growth and prosperity, and ensure its benefits trickle down to ordinary East Africans via their individual states.

Ms Maina told the Friends of EAC that the State Department of EAC Integration would be consulting them regularly for expert advice on how to handle various integration issues as a way of lending double support to the regional integration agenda and Kenya’s national growth efforts.