Kenya’s President, Uhuru Kenyatta, has pledged to use the rest of his term as The East African Community (EAC) chair to work on improving governance structures and relationships among partner states.
Among his objectives for 2022, President Kenyatta is keen on improving the funding mechanisms of the EAC Secretariat and organs; overseeing the admission of the Democratic Republic of Congo to the regional bloc; and responding to the private sector’s call to remove non-tariff barriers.
Kenyatta, who took over the one-year role from Rwandan leader Paul Kagame in March 2021, will hand over to Burundi’s president Evariste Ndayishimiye sometime this year.
“There are a few things President Kenyatta wishes to achieve before the end of his tenure sometime this year,” said Adan Mohamed, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of EAC and Regional Development and chair of the EAC Council of Ministers.
“We get the DRC admitted. At least if the issue of quorum is sorted out people will come around to sit at the table.”
Mohamed said there are some border disputes between partner states, which President Kenyatta is determined to resolve.
He said, “We don’t have a lot of tiffs between Kenya and Tanzania anymore. We have sorted out our trade disputes with Tanzania, and one can see trade beginning to improve tremendously between the two neighbours.
“President Kenyatta is also keen to see that there is a good relationship between Burundi and Rwanda, and Uganda and Rwanda. We are in the process of sorting out trade issues with Uganda. The admission of DR Congo is key and is expected to assist more homogenous relations in the EAC.”
Soon after the Heads of State Summit meeting held on December 22, the process of admitting DR Congo started.
The president is focusing on finalizing the remaining process in regards to DRC admission. According to Mr Mohamed, the EAC is focused on the DRC because of the growing market in the region.
The chair of the DRC verification, Alice Yalla, has already briefed team members and officials of the DRC about the purpose, methodology, broad sectors targeted by the team, and the next steps following the analysis.
The government officials working on the verification will be led by Nicole Ntumba Bwatshia, the deputy chief of staff of the president of the DRC, who is responsible for legal, political, and diplomatic matters.
With the EAC seeking to expand, the private sector is asking the regional governments to bolster the economies ravaged by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“In 2022, EAC member states must come up with a rigorous economic stimulus programme and post-Covid-19 Economic Recovery Strategy to cushion East Africans,” Kalisa, the chief executive of East African Business Council, said is his new year agenda.
“We also need to have a regional common approach to the management of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 to allow smooth flow of goods across the borders and fast-track EAC vaccination passports.”
Specifically, the EABC requests that the EAC focus on implementing the Customs Union in order to achieve free movement of goods and liberalization of regional trade.
According to Mr Kalisa, the EAC has made significant strides in its integration process, but there is still much to be done for the private sector to reap the benefits of the Customs Union and Common Market protocols.
The EABC chief added that there is also a lack of a trade dispute resolution mechanism, unharmonised standards, slow progress on the free movement of capital, and dissimilar work permit regimes.
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