The Secretary General of the East African Community, Dr. Richard Sezibera has said that with the right resolve and determination, the region can, within five years, realise a real economic upturn.
The Secretary General made the remarks, yesterday, while addressing the East African Investment Conference in Kigali, where he said that within this period, the region can move from the current five percent average GDP growth to 10 or 12 percent.
He also said that the bloc can easily shift from current per capita income of an average US$300 to at least US$700-US$1,000.
The Secretary General added that the region can be transformed from a largely agricultural and primary producer economy to an industrial based economy and achieve the status of a middle income economy by 2020.
Amb. Sezibera commended the support which the leadership in the region has always extended towards the promotion of trade and investment.
“Rwanda has been at the forefront of building confidence among the local and foreign investors to do business in our region.
“With practical commitment, Rwanda has championed the need to lower the costs of doing business in our region and, on the whole, establish a conducive environment for trade and investments in East Africa,” he said.
The Secretary General cited decisive interventions such as removal or reduction of the numerous roadblocks along East African highways; harmonisation of axle load controls on East African roads; and other measures for elimination of Non-Tariff Barriers, which Rwanda has been very positive and supportive of.
“In a particularly bold and exemplary move, for instance, Rwanda has unilaterally relaxed work permit requirements for East African nationals seeking employment,” said the Secretary General.
Sezibera informed the delegates that within a relatively short time, since the East African Community was re-launched in 2000, the regional bloc has transformed from a loose co-operation framework into a fast emerging, solid and dynamic regional grouping.
He pointed out that the EAC has developed strong institutions and vigorous programmes which are making an impact on the economies of member states.
In real growth terms, the Secretary General disclosed that the region’s combined GDP has risen to US$74.5 billion presently, up from US$20 billion at the time of the EAC launch.
The East African Investment Conference is being held at a time when the bloc places emphasis on the promotion of trade and investments in the bloc through the collaboration of the private sector.
EAC has regularly held the annual EAC Investment Conferences since the first one in Kigali in 2008, which have greatly stimulated intra-regional as well as international trade and investment activities.