The East African Community (EAC) intends to develop a single market and investment area that is anchored on the twin pillars of internal free trade and liberal trade with the rest of the world.
This was said on Monday in Arusha by the EAC Secretary General Dr Richard Sezibera when opening a two-day regional conference on financial sector integration organised by the EAC secretariat in collaboration with the International Monetary Fund.
He said in a statement issued yesterday that the Community has evolved strong institutions, legal frameworks and operational modalities in the promotion of a viable and vibrant integrated market, a business and investment friendly environment and development of competitive value added industries.
“We have established a Customs Union and Common Market into which we are currently investing every effort and energy to ensure that these programmes work well for the people in delivering and demonstrating the benefits of regional integration,” he explained.
He said the EAC is putting in place a comprehensive programme of regional infrastructure to support a viable, vibrant single market and investment area in the region.
“On the whole, we have transformed the East African narrative from that of lethargy, stagnation, dependence and underdevelopment to that of forward looking dynamic progress,” he added.
He said these indicators of progress are reflected in the steady growth trends of investments and trade and overall intensification of regional projects and programmes intended to turn region into a new hub of trade and investments.
Ambassodor Sezibera emphasised that in addition to the ongoing negotiations for the Monetary Union Protocol, the Partner States have intensified preparedness for the crucial harmonisation of monetary and exchange rate policies.
He revealed that the Community is to convene a retreat of the ministers responsible for finance, EAC affairs, and central bank governors in the first week of April 2012 to facilitate an informal engagement of the top policy makers on the agenda of the EAC monetary union in order to have a common view.
The Chairperson of the EAC Sectoral Council on Finance and Economic Affairs and Kenya’s Acting Minister for Finance Njeru Githae reiterated the region’s faith in the benefits of a monetary union, which he said would cushion against the prevailing global economic uncertainties.
“We expect that as a monetary union, we will be better positioned to advance a common agenda in terms of insulating our economies against these instabilities, while creating opportunities for our private sector to expand and benefit from the bigger market of about 140 million people,” he stated.
He added that the EAC remained committed to implementing economic policies and structural reforms that facilitate private sector growth and infrastructure development, among others.
“The Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopian governments with support from the East African Development Bank (EADB) are working on the development of a geothermal project, but we still need a regional private public partnerships regulatory framework,” he said.
The IMF Deputy Managing Director Naoyuki Shinohara said although there are challenges, there have been many achievements in the EAC regional integration process.
“The Community has grown from three to five and other applications have been received, evidence of its attractiveness and one factor boosting its attractiveness is the strong macroeconomic track record of existing members,” he noted.