The Secretary General of the East African Community (EAC), Amb. Libérat Mfumukeko, has said he’s implementing reforms at the Secretariat that could attract criticism, such as cutting unnecessary travel expenses.
He said this on Wednesday during his visit to Rwanda, where he met with François Kanimba, Minister for Trade, Industry and East African Community Affairs.
On his maiden official trip to Kigali since he was sworn-in as the new secretary general last April, Mfumukeko briefed the minister on developments at the recent EAC Secretariat, including reforms, he said, he is executing to curtail misuse of scarce financial resources.
He told the minister that “a lot of noise” should be expected mainly because people do not like measures being put in place to control things such as unnecessary travel expenses.
Mfumukeko also noted that at the end of the fourth EAC Development Strategy (2011/12 - 2015/16), they will roll out “a real and more implementable strategy” as the previous one was difficult to achieve.
The previous strategy, Mfumukeko noted, required $580 million, a sum seen as unrealistic as the Community spends an average $100 million annually.
“We are trying to focus on a few sectors that can produce tangible results,” Mfumukeko said, acknowledging that the Community has been accused of not doing enough to help the average East African.
Meanwhile, Mfumukeko noted that the Secretariat on Tuesday wrote to partner states requesting that an EAC Heads of States Summit earlier set for February 28 had been postponed to April due to other important events in member countries, including the upcoming leaders retreat in Rwanda.
EAC Manufacturers Summit for May in Kigali
Meanwhile, despite the Secretary General’s recommendation that a three-day regional manufacturing investment summit scheduled to be held in Kigali end May be postponed to August, it was in the end agreed that it should not be postponed.
The May 23-25 EAC Manufacturing Business Summit seeks to promote East Africa as a regional manufacturing hub and create a platform that fosters business networks and partnerships benefiting the bloc.
But Mfumukeko maintained tjere was not enough time to organise the event. “So many people have to be there and it has to be successful. My proposal is that let’s take time to organise it and the venue remains Kigali.”
Mfumukeko noted that at the Secretariat they have not started the necessary arrangements, including inviting key partners.
However, Kanimba insisted that it is important to maintain the earlier schedule, informing the Secretary General that he has a “dedicated team which has been working very hard” to ensure that Rwanda hosts a successful event.
Regional trade and investment ministers recently decided that Kigali will host the summit in May.
“It is wrong when you take a decision to postpone an event like this one when people have been working hard. It creates confusion,” Kanimba said, noting that when he was in Arusha, Tanzania less than a month ago, he confirmed to his Council colleagues that Rwanda was set to host the event.
At the time, Kanimba noted he registered no objection from the Secretariat about the same.
In the end, Mfumukeko promised that his office would henceforth do their best toward organising the summit as scheduled.
Kanimba told The New Times that Rwanda is doing all it can to ensure preparatory work is successful and even volunteered further participation in other activities, including “engaging the global investment community” that may be interested in the region’s manufacturing opportunities.
“We have been insisting that the dates of end May be maintained even if the Secretary General was looking to postpone to August. We don’t see any reason why this summit can be postponed,” Kanimba said.
EAC meetings in Rwanda, Burundi
On another note, Mfumukeko acknowledged the challenge that “when there are meetings in Kigali, people from Burundi do not attend” and vice versa.
For the last one year, Mfumukeko said, he has been trying to talk to the Council of Ministers to see how things can be rectified but at the EAC level they “are just stuck because we cannot do anything about it.”
A recent directive of the Council indicates that meetings of the Community and other activities can be held and conducted in all partner states as usual.
Kanimba told his guest that “I don’t see any reason why meetings can’t take place here.”
“This is a very friendly and welcoming country. There was a time where people decided not to go to Burundi, for security reasons, but I think there has been some improvement,” Kanimba said.
After his Kigali trip, Mfumukeko travelled home to Burundi by road.