Amb. Dr Richard Sezibera’s New Year Message
To All Staff and Partners in East African Community Integration:
Welcome to 2016. I do not know where old years retire to, but 2015 is now retired. As we usher in the New Year, a prayer for our brothers and sisters in Burundi, for whom 2015 has been particularly challenging. I can only hope that 2016 will be a year of peace, stability, and prosperity for them. The Community will certainly continue to accompany them in this quest for a return to full normality.
2015 has been a challenging year for Integration. In the aftermath of the Immigration crisis in Europe, questions are being asked of open borders and open markets. The rules based global trade regime under the World Trade Organization is under stress. The slowing down of Growth in Emerging markets, particularly the BRICS countries, with the concomitant fall in commodity prices continues to put pressure on Government budgets across Africa, affecting, in many ways, East African Countries.
Times of austerity are difficult for integration. It is clear however, that Africa will have to invest more in Regional Integration and promote Intra-African Trade if it is to withstand the challenges ahead. This is the time for creating a truly African Market - in Goods and Services including Financial services. This is the time for shared Industrialisation, creating value chains across countries and regions.
I am glad East Africa Continues to be at the forefront of integration, and growth. The Single Customs Territory continues to deliver benefits to East Africans both on the Central Corridor, as well as the Northern Corridor. Financial integration is deepening. Free movement of labour is becoming a reality, certainly for Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda. Now that the United Republic of Tanzania has concluded her Presidential elections, I look forward to her full participation in this program. I look forward to the Launch of the New Generation East African e-Passport early in the New Year.
Led by the Inter University Council for East Africa, our Community is turning into a Common Higher Education Area. Mutual Recognition Agreements among Professional bodies are facilitating the movement of labour.
The clock is ticking on our march towards a Single Currency by 2024. The Monetary Affairs Committee as well as the Fiscal Affairs Committee are working to make sure we meet the deadlines contained in the East African Monetary Union Protocol. And I look forward to accelerated movement on the Political Federation Agenda for East Africa during 2016.
During 2015, the Tripartite Free Trade Area between COMESA, EAC and SADC was signed. This is a momentous milestone for Africa. When fully implemented, it has the potential to move our Continent from the margins of Global Trade - and it lays a good basis for the Continental Free Trade Area. We must now work hard to make sure that work on the other pillars of the Tripartite is concluded.
Our Infrastructure programs are largely on track. Many of the One-Stop Border Posts have been completed, and are being operationalised. I congratulate the Partner States for ratifying the One-Stop Border Bill, and the Axle Weight Control Bill. This puts our Community in good stead to strengthen the operations of our Customs Union. As we increasingly become an effective Customs Union on the ground, we shall have to do the same for East Africa’s Airspace. I therefore urge for acceleration of the unification and domestication of our Airspace during 2016.
In September 2015, the Community held the first-ever Manufacturing Summit. Manufacturing currently accounts for about 10% of GDP. This must be changed. And it is clear that Industrialisation will have to be East Africa wide to succeed. Actions at National level, if not accompanied by regional value chains, will not succeed. I look forward to continued focus on this sector, in collaboration with the East African Business Council, Financial Institutions, Academia, and the Public Sector.
The pace of integration has to accelerate, or it will stall. 2015 has shown us that East Africa needs to urgently conclude a Protocol on Good Governance, and strengthen our Early Warning and Conflict Management. It has demonstrated an acute need to make sure that Elections in our Region are times of celebrations, anchored in ceaseless democratic consolidation and the promotion of pluralism, not times of desolation and despair. East Africans demand no less.
Our journey to integration has just begun. 2015 has been another exciting step in the journey. I want to thank all Members of Staff of all Organs and Institutions for the hard work. My gratitude go to the Members of the East African Legislative Assembly, Judges of the East African Court of Justice, Members of the Council of Ministers, Coordination Committee, and Senior Officials for their dedication. 2016 will demand that the Community’s Institutions are reviewed and made fit for purpose, and that the Community finally agrees on a sustainable financing Mechanism. I look forward to Council leadership on this.
I thank Members of the Summit for their individual and collective leadership. I look forward to even more accelerated impetus in 2016. Finally, I thank all our Partners for the support they give to East Africa.
May 2016 bring all of you Pleasures untold and Serenity undisturbed!
I thank you.
Dr Richard Sezibera