By Michael Okidi – Public Communications
The State Department of East African Community Integration held the first round table for stakeholders with the aim of providing a forum for deliberation on the EAC integration process and generating agenda for prioritization of Kenya’s national interests in the regional integration process.
Bringing together policy and decision makers from both the public and private sectors responsible for driving the integration agenda, the round table provided an opportunity for generation of ideas and proposals for solutions to integration issues that may not favour Kenya’s national prosperity.
It also provided a platform for ideas on deepening the relationship between the Government and Private Sector as provided for in the EAC Treaty, and a platform for constructive dialogue for improvement of business investment climate in the region.
The forum, held at Nairobi’s Laico Regency Hotel, was convened under six thematic areas, namely: trade, investment and industry; transport, communication and infrastructure; agriculture, environment, tourism and wildlife; education, health and labour; political affairs and security; and legal and judicial affairs, in which experts stormed and made views on the way forward.
Speaking at the official opening of the round table, Principal Secretary for East African Community Integration, Betty Maina, urged participants to provide adequate inputs towards shaping the integration agenda and providing impetus for Kenya’s leadership and pace setting in the integration journey.
She enumerated the various sectors in which the EAC integration had seen massive growth, among them cross border trade, infrastructure, education and other socio-economic sectors, and thanked the various Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) that had made contributions towards the successes.
She specifically mentioned the standard gauge railway project, completion of Arusha-Namanga-Athi River road, harmonization of mobile phone roaming charges across Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda, harmonization of education systems and training curricula, among others as areas in which tangible success had been recorded.
Noting that the integration process was dynamic and vulnerable to other geo-political issues, said there was need to continuously review country-specific strategies in order to ensure maximization of the benefits offered by integration.
The PS said that the State Department of East African Community Integration had convened the forum to provide the participants with an opportunity to set the agenda for the regional bloc, as stated in the the EAC Treaty, that the integration process is people-centered and private sector-driven.
She expressed hope that the round table forums that she pledged the State Department’s commitment to convene at least twice a year, would lay the foundation and structure for a continued dialogue between the government and the private sector in improving the business and investment environment besides facilitating trade within the region.
The round table was attended by Principal Secretaries: Julius Korir (Industrialization), Sammy Itameere (Information and Communication Technology), Susan Mochache (Social Protection) and Mwanamaka Mabruki (Devolution); Kenya Association of Manufacturers Chief Executive Phyllis Wakiaga, and Kisumu County Deputy Governor, Ruth Odinga, among other key personalities.
Former Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Amb. Bethwel Kiplagat delivered the keynote address, in which he enumerated the painful path through which the original EAC collapsed, the challenges and eventual success of reviving the Community and the need for commitment to the ideals and values for which the regional bloc was re-established.
Amb. Kiplagat urged the participants to each play a lead role in ensuring the success of the EAC integration, and volunteered to freely give his inputs for the sustainability, growth and prosperity of the regional bloc whenever called upon to.