East African Community (EAC) Heads of State on Friday took note of a revised roadmap for the completion of the EAC institutional review exercise and directed the Council of Ministers to ensure that the process was finalized within the revised timeframe.
They made the call during the ordinary Summit held in Nairobi, Kenya, which, according to a final communiqué, directed the Council of Ministers to submit final recommendations during the next Summit.
Nathan Ngoga Gashayija, Director of the EAC Programmes Coordination Unit in Rwanda’s Ministry of EAC
Affairs, said that ministers had recommended that the exercise is finished as soon as possible.
“In the ministerial meeting, before the Summit, it was recommended that the exercise is done by April but I don’t know if this was later changed,” Gashayija said, adding: “Everybody wants this concluded”.
The Council in 2009 directed the Secretariat to undertake a comprehensive study and propose institutional reforms to boost efficiency.
Last month, the Accounts Committee of the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) established that the long overdue review to align EAC institutions with the expanding mandate of the bloc was costing the Community a lot of money.
MP Peter Mutuku Mathuki (Kenya), a member of the Eala Accounts Committee, said the exercise was basically about assessing the capacity of personnel and resources. The Assembly noted that the delay was negatively impacting on the implementation of the Common Market Protocol, the second stage of the regional integration process that involves free movement of goods, labour, services and capital.
The exercise that started in July 2010 was supposed to enable the EAC build capacity to effectively implement the protocol, as well as other EAC pillars.
Staffing gaps in key EAC positions remain a hindrance to efficiency
Regarding the issue of sustainable financing mechanisms for the bloc, the leaders directed the Council to finalize the mechanism and recommend the best sustainable financing mechanism to the next Summit.
“Earlier, the Council also took this matter in the same spirit as the institutional review process,” Gashayija said.
The Summit directed the Council to expedite implementation of the framework for harmonized EAC roaming charges, including the removal of surcharges for international telecommunications traffic originating and terminating within the bloc by July 15.
This follows the implementation of a less costly One Network Area by Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda, that saw call charges go down by 12 US cents per minute while there were no more charges for incoming calls.
Before President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya handed over the chairmanship to Tanzania’s President Jakaya Kikwete, he noted that the high cost of roaming calls across the region was an unnecessary impediment to trade and communication.
“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,” Kenyatta said.
“This tremendous benefit will be shared within the entire East African Community when the region adopts harmonized calling rates.”
Among others, the Summit also approved and signed a protocol to operationalize the extended jurisdiction of the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) covering trade and investment as well as matters associated with the implementation of the protocol on the establishment of the East African Monetary Union, the integration stage that precedes the bloc’s ultimate phase, a Political Federation. Partner states were directed to ratify the protocol by November 30.
“The Summit noted the progress towards initiating the process of drafting the constitution for the East African Community Political Federation,” reads part of the Summit’s joint communiqué.
The Council was directed to tie up national consultations on the model structure, road map, action plan and report progress to the next Summit.
It also directed the Council to study modalities for promotion of motor vehicle assembly in the region and to reduce the importation of used motor vehicles from outside EAC.
Leaders also directed the Council to study modalities for the promotion of the region’s textile and leather industries and halting importation of used clothes, shoes and other leather products from outside EAC.