NAIROBI - The fifth meeting of the second session of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) yesterday started deliberations on the state of the EAC address by President Paul Kagame.
The President who is also the current Chairman of the East African Community (EAC), late last month briefed EALA members on the current status of the regional integration, its achievements, challenges and the way forward.
Members of the regional assembly will during the one-week plenary sessions at the Kenya National Assembly, Nairobi, also receive a report on the public hearing workshops on the Common Market Protocol conducted in partner states.
Among key areas of the President’ address to the assembly was the state of infrastructure in East Africa, which he said is derailing the region’s trade and investment competitiveness.
He told the lawmakers that modernization and expansion of rail services in East Africa is not progressing according to the region’s collective vision.
Rwanda and Burundi currently depend on the Dar es Salaam and Mombasa ports for access to the sea but much of their exports and imports are transported by road since the two countries are not linked to the railway network.
Another important issue that is likely to catch the attention of the legislators, is a call the President made for the introduction of a single tourist visa in the region in an effort to make East Africa more competitive in the tourism sector.
He told the lawmakers that there is need to double efforts in branding the region as an attractive destination for business beyond the traditional European markets.
On the topical common market negotiations which are also expected to feature prominently in the discussions, Kagame had called for greater commitment to an even quicker pace of integration towards the protocol.
Negotiations are nearing completion. The High Level Task Force (HLTF) on the EAC Common Market is expected to wind up its work at the 9th and last round of negotiations scheduled for late this month in Uganda.
It will thereafter submit its report (draft EAC Common Market Protocol) to the sectoral council on the Common Market, which is also scheduled to meet next month in Uganda.
Towards the end of the sessions, the lawmakers will hold joint forum discussions with the African Youth Trust (AYT) at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre (KICC) in Nairobi.
The one to two- hour interaction is expected to provide the group of young men and women from all the EAC partner states a chance to create a platform of cooperation with the assembly.