It has been observed that the East African Community has demonstrated the most feasible progress on integration and is said to be the most ambitious of all the regional economic communities in Africa. The East African Community member states have made a number of significant strides towards the realization of full economic integration of the region’s economies.
The recently concluded 10th Northern Corridor Integration Projects Summit is one of the things that remind us of this progress. The Northern Corridor Integration Projects initiative was designed to generate sustainable political will necessary to fast track the implementation of the projects identified.
The first Summit was held in June 2013 and the three Heads of State of Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya agreed to meet every two months to review progress. The meetings are hosted by Partner States on rotational basis and the decision is supported by articles 1 and 7 of the EAC Treaty which allows progression in cooperation among groups within the Community for wider integration.
Member States of the Northern Corridor have made noteworthy advancement in mobilising resources for the rehabilitation of the trunk road networks.
The 10th Northern Corridor Integration Projects Summit showed how East African Community has so far brought forth vast evolution of regional development as a result of this project. Their constant support has so far driven this noble regional development project.
A number of milestones have been reached. For instance, under the Northern Corridor summits, partner countries have already agreed on the removal of non-tariff barriers to reduce the cost of doing business and established a One Network Areas where roaming charges on voice calls have been harmonized and drastically reduced.
The One Network Areas, where roaming charges on voice calls have been harmonized and drastically reduced, effectively eases the way in which citizens within the EAC region interact and engage in terms of business and on social basis.
The launch of the standard gauge railway, a transport network that will connect Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan, is another icing on the cake. The standard gauge railway will open a wider market to each member state’s products upon its completion.
The Northern Corridor Summit has seen Uganda, Kenya, South Sudan and Rwanda review the issue of visas and ID cards. Trading in the region has, therefore, been made easier by this freedom of movement where citizens of the region can move across the bloc by use of their National Identity cards.
For East Africa, one of the richest tourist destinations, issuance of the East African Tourist Visa is a practical approach that has and will result in increased tourist traffic within the member states.
The diversity of East Africa’s wildlife garners international fame, especially for its populations of large mammals, particularly rare species such as the Mountain Gorillas of Rwanda not forgetting that our neighbours Uganda and DR Congo share this heritage.
The region is also famous for its diverse population of birds, including Flamingos and Maasai ostriches. The East African Community is also home to some of the most diverse flora in the world. Unlike before, it is now less costly for a tourist who wants to explore Akagera National Park and at the same time get to Mount Kilimanjaro.
Affirmation by the East African leaders of their commitment to the Northern Corridor Integration projects during the tenth summit lays ground for more gains. For example, it was during this time that a Memorandum of Understanding was signed. This included cooperation in the key aspects of cyber security, total free movement of labour, total free movement of services and the co-ordination of foreign policy.
More conspicuously, the involvement and participation of the private Sector was highlighted for the very first time. The role of the private sector is very critical in terms of regional development. This, therefore, beings on board a new chapter of sustainability to the Northern Corridor Integration projects.
Bringing national and regional efforts together will undoubtedly enhance the attractiveness of the region and sustain its economic prospects as the latter ambitions to shift to a new development model and integrate successfully into the global economy. As a former President of Kenya recently observed, integration of communities and interests is imperative to progress, besides being crucial in perpetuating the survival of the human race itself.
The EAC still retains many strategic advantages that can be utilized to bring economic development, raise quality of life of our people and steer the region out of impoverishment.