Tremendous progress has been made in pursuing the EAC integration agenda notwithstanding any challenges on the path as any ambitious project will not be without challenges.
This is according to the Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of East African Community and Northern Corridor Development in Kenya Adan Mohamed who was the Chief Guest during the official opening of the high-level conference on East African Community (EAC) Trade integration in Nairobi Kenya this morning.
“I am aware of the progress made in the realm of trade facilitation including the transformation of the Customs processes, the introduction of technology in driving regional business, re-orienting the border operations under the coordinated border management concept, and the re-engineering of the immigration procedures.
“I am proud as an East African that today fellow citizens of East Africa can move around without any hindrances.
“The one network and one tourist visa for some Partner States is another bold step we have taken and I am hopeful that all the Partner States will soon be on board,” said Mohamed.
He called on the delegates to adopt a people and solution-oriented approach to the deliberations for the next three days of the conference.
East Africans he added expect the East African Community Secretariat, delegates and the political leadership to provide solutions that will improve their standards of living and reduction in poverty levels. He observed that when the movement of goods is costly the traders will obviously pass the cost over to the consumers at a higher price.
“The consumers are the ordinary Mwananchi of East Africa and don’t forget a great majority are poor or unemployed. It is our responsibility to ensure that we are contributing not only to better economic development in general but that the ordinary person is enjoying the benefits of being East Africans thanks to the East African Community,” said the Cabinet Secretary.
The CS gave an example of the stretch from Mombasa to Busia and Malaba borders which had many non-tariff barriers in terms of weigh-bridges; roadblocks, Customs checkpoints and police barriers which were reduced to bare minimum and remained with those that are extremely necessary and are laid on need basis.
He assured the delegates that Kenya is fully committed to the regional integration agenda and as a country, it has demonstrated this commitment through its support to the East African Community, participation in EAC meetings and implementing decisions made by the Summit and the Council of Ministers.
He said Kenya is always part of the decision taken by East African Community as a region in the context of international relations and we will continue with this spirit.
“Kenya takes cognizance of its centrality in the geopolitics of this region as well as the economic development of the whole region. Actually, you wouldn’t go to any part of the East African Community and fail to find a Kenyan engaged in one activity or another.
“ In this regard, Kenya’s approach to handling matters in the East African Community is peace, encouraging a positive trade environment and a supportive infrastructure,” observed Mohamed.
The CS said His Excellency the President of the Republic of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, is on record allowing East African students from outside Kenya to pay the same fees as Kenyans and those who are seeking opportunities for the establishment of business and settling in Kenya to feel free and come to the Republic of Kenya.
On infrastructure development, he pointed out that Kenya serves the Republics of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan and even DRC Congo.
The port of Mombasa said the CS serves all the Partner States including Northern Tanzania –Kilimanjaro area which is dependent on the port of Mombasa.
A recent addition to Kenya’s infrastructure development- the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) he said is eventually supposed to connect all EAC countries, but right now it’s of immediate benefit to Kenya’s neighbours who are land-linked.
He pointed out that the port facilities in Kisumu are being improved and are expected to ease movement of goods to the Republic of Uganda through Port Bell and to the United Republic of Tanzania through the port of Mwanza.
BY ALEXANDER MWANGI