• Says region has necessary tools for development
President Kagame Thursday took over the reigns as Chairperson of the East African Community during the ninth session of the Heads of State Summit held in Kigali. During his acceptance remarks, Kagame thanked his fellow Heads of State for the trust they had placed in him by unanimously selecting him to lead the regional bloc for the next one year.
“It is with great humility that I accept the chairmanship of the East African Community and I am looking forward to serving the community to the level of their expectations,” said Kagame.
The meeting was attended by all Heads of State of the EAC who included the outgoing chairman of the bloc, Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni, Kenya’s Mwai Kibaki, Tanzania’s Jakaya Kikwete and Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza.
The President urged regional leaders to act quickly to curb the problems of delays at borders which he said cause unnecessary costs of doing business.
“We need to expedite a complete overhaul of our customs union beginning from our borders… this accumulates unnecessary costs for doing business leading to what I can call corruption costs,” he said.
“The major problems of these delays are caused by numerous roadblocks, borders and weighbridges which delay merchandise from ports to inland,” he added.
The President proposed that the borders be opened twenty four hours if necessary to reduce costs.
This summit was held concurrently with the first East African Investment Conference, a three-day event that also started Monday, attracting close to 1000 businesspeople from allover the globe.
Earlier, during the opening of the conference, Kagame had urged investors to make use of the available opportunities in the region.
During a Strategy Retreat, the Heads of State also mooted the East African Infrastructure Strategy, which is aimed at harmonising the regional infrastructural policies with the aim of facilitating investors willing to do business in the region.
Meanwhile, Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni said that for effective development, much emphasis should be put on the private sector.
“We have to put our emphasis on the private sector and investors rather than politics and bureaucracy….It is time to put in practice what we have been discussing for the last 40 years,” said Museveni, who is the outgoing chairperson of the EAC.
He outlined some of the crucial issues to be addressed if equitable development was to be achieved including security, both physical for the investors, and material, where they would feel their property is safe.
“Another aspect is the tax incentives; for example, the United States has given us quota and tax free market of 6500 products; China has also given us the same offer for 440… our embarrassment will be to run short of the products to supply to these markets,” he said.
He added that the region has all the resources that can be used in the production of the products to export to these countries: “The only problem is how to process those products and make them ready for export.”
Kenya’s Mwai Kibaki called for the harmonisation of electricity generation as a way of improving investment in the region.
“Our region requires a vibrant financial sector and electricity is crucial in having this realised.”
He called upon investors to come to Kenya, saying the political instability which rocked the country earlier this year has since been settled.
“The grand coalition government has worked it out and investors should not have reasons to worry,” he said.
Burundi’s Nkurunziza said that he was optimistic following the recent peace deal with FNL--a rebel outfit formerly fighting Burundi, that the country would now embark on economic development.
The summit, which was organised by the Rwanda Investment and Export Promotion Agency (RIEPA), attracted more than 1,000 foreign investors.
The Secretary General of EAC, Juma Mwapachu, recognised efforts by President Kagame in hosting the summit only one year after Rwanda joined the regional bloc.
“He has managed to make the dream we had when the community was being established into a reality,” he said.
Meanwhile, Kagame kicked off his chairmanship of the regional bloc by presiding over the swearing-in ceremony of the ten judges making up the East African Court of Justice.
Two Rwandan judges, Johnston Busingye who is also the High Court president, and Emilie Rusera Kayitesi, were sworn in as members of this court.