ARUSHA-EAC Secretary General, Dr. Richard Sezibera, yesterday hosted former German President Professor Dr. Horst Koehler at a round table discussion in Arusha, where he reaffirmed the Community’s desire to have the Protocol establishing the Monetary Union signed on time.
Speaking at the Konrad Adenauer Foundation/EAC Round Table Discussion themed “Ambition for and Reality of the East African Community in a Globalised World” the Secretary General reiterated the EAC’s resolve to have the Monetary Union Protocol by 2012.
“The integration agenda is speedy by design, I am confident we can have the Monetary Union Protocol signed soon but also sure that implementation will take a longer time,” Dr. Sezibera said, responding to a recommendation by Koehler for a more relaxed timeframe to embark on the next stage of integration.
The EAC in January this year inaugurated the High Level Task Force (HLTF) to negotiate the Protocol to establish the East African Monetary Union (EAMU), which is the third stage of the EAC integration process.
Koehler urged the region to implement protocols and agreements it passed and to ensure that the people of the community fully understand the objectives of the integration.
The former German President explained that the EAC is a good project, and if well implemented, would serve interests of the people and enable the community to negotiate as a stronger bloc.
“But I recommend that you work very hard to remove bottlenecks to the achievement of the Customs Union and the Common Market because free movement is a pre-condition for the two to be developed,” he said.
He added that the negotiations for the Monetary Union should not be prolonged but urged the negotiators to keep the momentum while negotiating.
Dr. Sezibera lauded Germany-EAC relations, noting that Germany was the first country to enter into a formal co-operation arrangement with the EAC as far back as 1997 and that this co-operation had “contributed immensely to the steady growth and development of the Community”.
He remarked that the EAC has transformed from a loose cooperation into an emerging, solid and dynamic regional economic bloc that today commands great attention and respect in the world.
“Intra-EAC trade has grown by over 50 percent in the past three years and there is a regional fair spread and distribution of benefits from increased trade among us under the Customs Union arrangement,” he added.
Sezibera reiterated that the EAC is working on the establishment of a Single Custom’s Territory which will further streamline and strengthen the operations of the Customs Union.
Former EAC Secretary General, Edwin Mtei, called for the EAC Secretariat to be granted greater autonomy in executing the integration agenda. Mtei was the Secretary General of the EAC between 1974 and 1977.
The Executive Director of East African Business Council (EABC), Agatha Nderitu, while noting the progress achieved since the implementation of the Customs Union and Common Market started, decried the continued existence of non-tariff barriers, lack of respect for the Common External Tariff bands and lack of a single customs territory among others.