SPEECH BY PRESIDENT UHURU KENYATTA DURING THE 16TH SUMMIT OF THE EAST AFRICAN COMMUNITY HEADS OF STATE AT KENYATTA INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE CENTRE, NAIROBI ON 20TH FEBRUARY, 2015
Your Excellencies, East African Community Heads of State,
Our Council of Ministers,
The Secretary of the East African Community,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am honoured for this opportunity to welcome your Excellencies and your delegations to Kenya and, more specifically, to our capital city, Nairobi. I trust that you have enjoyed your stay so far, and that your tour will be rewarding and memorable.
I thank your Excellencies for your unyielding commitment to provide real and progressive leadership to the East African integration process.
This commitment advances our founding philosophy that greater integration furthers the sovereignty and aspirations of our people, while isolation and insularity reduces and undermines it.
We meet today to review the progress we have made in the process of integration, and to provide the guidance needed to drive it forward. This Summit takes place at a critical moment. It is the first anniversary of the signing of the Protocol establishing the East African Monetary Union. It is therefore gratifying to note that all Partner States have concluded the ratification of the Protocol.
This is important progress. We look forward to the implementation of the Union and the commencement of the realisation of its benefits in facilitating movement and trade across our borders.
As I have observed before, the people of East Africa are united. In their hearts and in their minds, our people are already integrated.
It is our obligation as leaders to dedicate ourselves to ensuring that this unity and integration culminates in prosperity, stability and happiness throughout our region.
Our Community has continued to perform encouragingly. As a result, several critical milestones have been achieved in the integration process. We continue to rise and meet the expectations envisaged in establishing our Community.
For instance, intra-EAC trade grew from 3.5 billion in 2009 to about 5.8 Dollars in 2013. This points strongly to the possibility and opportunity for higher volumes of trade across our borders. I commend our region’s business community for embracing the vast opportunities which come with integration, and encourage them to make greater use of them. This will create more wealth and deliver more jobs for our young population.
The impressive growth and promise of intra-Community trade has been accompanied and underpinned by greater regional connectivity through enabling infrastructure development. Over the last 2 years, projects and programmes designed to promote intensive integration have been completed. Encouragingly, work has commenced on several cross-border roads. The Voi-Taveta-Arusha road and numerous sections of the Northern and Central Corridors are notable examples.
Feasibility studies are currently being conducted on a number of other roads. These road projects are necessary to grow cross-border movement and trade.
Similarly, Partner States have made significant investments in the modernisation and expansion of the railway network throughout our Community. Whilst such projects are inevitably capital-intensive, the region shares the awareness of their immense long-term benefits. Our unwavering commitment to this investment is therefore borne of a strong, visionary consensus.
To further facilitate movement and trade across our borders, we undertook to establish One-Stop Border Posts at our major boundary points. There has been tremendous progress in putting these up, and a number are complete, awaiting official opening. They include Lunga Lunga and Taveta on the Tanzania/Kenya border as well as Rusumo on the Uganda/Rwanda border. Upon commencement of full operations, we expect these facilities to support efficient transactions in our Community by reducing clearance times by up to 40%.
We have acknowledged that the high cost of roaming calls across the region is an unnecessary impediment to trade and communication in our Community. It is unacceptable that in many instances, calling outside our continent is much cheaper than communicating within our region. In the spirit of East African integration, therefore, innovative interventions leading to substantial reduction of calling charges are overdue. The implementation of a One-Area Network by Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya is an excellent beginning.
Already, calls within this Network have reduced to about 12 US cents per minute, while there are no charges for incoming calls. This tremendous benefit will be shared within the entire East African Community when the region adopts harmonized calling rates in July this year.
Without a doubt, we have made progress in eliminating Non-Tariff Barriers to intra-Community trade. I am grateful for the cooperation and goodwill shown by Member States in demolishing these obstacles to integration.
Even so, about 24 Non-Tariff Barriers still remain unresolved. This denies us the opportunity to unlock the immense promise of integration, and starves businesses of innumerable opportunities. To grow intra-Community trade, we need to implement decisive solutions without delay. Intra-EAC Non Tariff Barriers ultimately translate to impediments to our region’s competitiveness as a global investment destination denying us uncountable golden opportunities. Non-Tariff Barriers must go. I am glad to note that our Council of Ministers has introduced a legal framework aimed at moving this agenda forward.
Our energy sector is a key factor of our region’s competitiveness. In particular, power supply is critical to the cost of production. Conscious of this imperative, we have undertaken substantial developments aimed at establishing sufficient, reliable and affordable power supply. Each Partner State has intensified investment in power generation and supply across our Community. In coming days, it will be vital for us to channel more investment into both power generation and cross-border inter-connection.
To support these projects, a regulatory framework must be developed. This framework must promote higher investment in Oil &Gas to quickly unlock benefits of our resources for all our people.
A people-centred Community integration process is the cornerstone of our Treaty. It is important to keep the people of East Africa aware of all the programmes connected with regional integration.
I am encouraged to observe the various sensitisation efforts made by Partner States across our Community. The Community must enhance these activities and ensure that they go far in promoting accountability and public engagement.
Democracy is the other foundation stone of our Community’s integration process. It is an essential value of our Treaty. I believe that there is no longer doubt that democracy has found a home in our Community, and is here to stay. Burundi and Tanzania will be holding their elections this year.
We wish the two Partner States success in the elections. May they emerge from these elections stronger, more united and totally peaceful.
Peace and stability are vital for our region and Community. We deem peace to be essential to integration. Political stability is the foundation of all prosperity and aspiration.
It is our obligation as regional leaders to maintain our keen interest in initiatives and efforts to restore peace and stability in those countries of our region which have been troubled by conflict. Our investment in the restoration of peace and stability in Somalia and Sudan is inspired by this knowledge. I commend EAC Partner States for constantly and faithfully supporting our neighbour, Somalia. Our call remain, however, that the international community has a significant role to play, and must do their part in this cause.
As regards South Sudan, there has been notable progress in resolving the conflict which has haunted the young Republic. This has been achieved under the aegis of IGAD. Whilst neighbouring States have continued to support peace-building in South Sudan, the two parties must remember that they hold the key to stabilising the country. The parties therefore have an obligation to resolve any differences that may have caused the conflict in order to allow the people of South Sudan grow their homeland.
The progress made so far strongly points to the possibility of a lasting settlement and a return to the agenda of South Sudanese progress and self-determination.