The East African Community (EAC) hails the United Republic of Tanzania for her extensive contribution towards deepening regional integration and in turn increasing intra-EAC trade and development opportunities, as the country marks 60 years since independence.
As one of the three founding Partner States of the Community, Tanzania plays an integral role in the region, serving as one of the three original Partner States of the EAC who signed the Treaty establishing the EAC on 30th November 1999, which entered into force on 7th July, 2000.
EAC Secretary General, Hon. (Dr.) Peter Mathuki, underscored Tanzania’s critical role in the region, as she serves as the host of the EAC Headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania.
“We hail the Republic of Tanzania for steering growth and development in the country and also fostering peace and security. It is this stability that has created a conducive operating environment for the EAC and its Organs, with their home in the United Republic of Tanzania,” said Dr. Mathuki.
“The city of Arusha in Tanzania is the permanent seat of the East African Community Secretariat, the executive Organ of the Community, and the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), the legislative Organ of the Community,” added Dr. Mathuki, adding that Arusha was also the temporary seat of the East African Court of Justice (EACJ), the judicial Organ of the Community.
The country also hosts the East African Kiswahili Commission (EAKC), which is based in the island nation of Zanzibar.
Tanzania continues to benefit from regional integration of the EAC. In 2020, Tanzania’s total trade with EAC Partner States amounted to US$1,136.9 million, higher than US$1,003.6 million in 2019. Tanzania has been recording trade balance surpluses since 2016, reflecting Tanzania’s increase in exports to other Partner States.
Most of the country’s exports to the region were destined to Kenya, followed by Rwanda and Uganda. It’s main exports to other Partner States include cereals particularly rice and maize; cattle, edible vegetables (mostly onions); residues and waste, paper and paper products, coffee, tea and spices. On the import side, Tanzania significant imports were from Kenya and Uganda. Most of the imported goods were soap and soap products; pharmaceutical products, plastic items, sugar confectionery and electric equipment.
Further, in 2020, the total trade for the EAC region stood at US$51,915 million from US$55,278.2 million in 2019, a 6.08 percent drop. In the same period, total EAC exports rose by 3.15 percent to US$16,257 million from US$15,938 million in 2019.
President Samia Suluhu’s stance on improving bilateral relations has also seen increase in Intra EAC trade in the last 9 months she has been in office.
As a signatory to the Customs Union, the country has contributed to the promotion of efficiency in production within the Community. It has also enhanced domestic, cross border and foreign investment in the Community.
Further, the establishment of the EAC Single Customs Territory has aided in facilitating faster clearance and movement of cargo from the port of entry to the destination.
Dr. Mathuki also acknowledged the critical role played by Tanzania peace and security in East Africa., adding that the country’s role had been crucial in the area of Conflict Prevention ,Management and Resolution:
“Tanzania has been the home of Burundian and other refugees for a long time. Mwalimu Nyerere was at the heart of the conclusion of the Arusha Accord which brought stability to Burundi in 2000 and again through the Late President Mkapa’s facilitation promoted Inter-Burundi dialogue between 2015 and 2019, an initiative that resulted in peaceful elections in 2020 that saw restoration of democracy and peace. The peaceful conclusion of the 2020 election has led to the commencement of the peaceful return of Burundian refugees, a process that is still underway,” said the Secretary General.
Dr. Mathuki singled out maritime security as an area where Tanzania had made an immense contribution especially on the Indian Ocean.
“Tanzania has the longest coastline in the EAC Region. Tanzania has through working with other coastal states, supported the process of combating piracy and other maritime offences that has ultimately led to the restoration of security in the Indian Ocean. Through her security interventions and partnership with other like minded states, large quantities of narcotics have been seized and destroyed and traffickers arrested and subjected to the legal system,” said the SG.
“On efforts to combat terrorism. Tanzania has directly contributed to stability in eastern DRC where it is part of the AU Rapid Intervention Brigade that decimated M23 rebel group and again in Mozambique as part of the SADC intervention team involved in the ongoing process of uprooting Ansar al Sunna in the northern region of the southern African country,” said Dr. Mathuki.
On efforts to control the proliferation of small arms and light weapons (SALW), Dr. Mathuki said that Tanzania was a signatory to the Nairobi Protocol on SALW and has been central in ensuring that the initiatives aimed at combating proliferation of SALW are implemented as part of a broader effort to ensure that only governments retain arms through both demand and supply reduction efforts.
The Secretary General pointed Tanzania’s efforts in contributing to security on Lake Victoria in cooperation with the twin lacustrine states of Kenya and Uganda.
“Lake Victoria is a big shared economic asset for the region whose security is strategically important for the region. To ensure safety and security, Tanzania that has 56% of the lake, has in partnership with Kenya and Uganda continued to ensure safety and security in the lake for the interest of the people who depend on the lake for navigation and livelihood,” said Dr. Mathuki.
Under the Common Market Protocol, the United Republic of Tanzania was the first Partner State to successfully implement the two-year set timeline for phasing out the old generation machine -readable national passports. The country commenced the issuance of the EA e-Passport on 31st January, 2018 and completed the phase-out in record time on 1st January, 2020.
“The 38th Extra-Ordinary Council of Ministers noted that the earlier set two phase-out programme had not been sufficient for all Partner States to complete the phase-out programme and extended the programme duration for two years from with effect September 2019 which ended in September 2021. In this regard, the 41st Ordinary meeting of the Council of Ministers, held on 29th November, 2021 commended the United Republic of Tanzania for this achievement,” said Dr. Mathuki.
DRC Has High Appetite For EAC
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has reaffirmed her willingness to join the East African Community.
DRC’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Hon. Christophe Lutundula Apala Pen’Apala, said that DRC was looking forward to increased trade and investment, and strengthened relations with EAC, adding that her relations with EAC Partner States had largely been at a bilateral level.
Hon. Pen’Apala said that DRC was keen on cooperating with the EAC for maximum exploitation of both natural and human resources in the region.
Hon. Pen’Apala expressed hope that this would be the last round of negotiations before DRC is admitted into the EAC.
The Minister said that DRC has a big population who are consumers that constitute a big market for the EAC, adding that DRC was also in dire need of investors and was therefore offering incentives for entrepreneurs who would like to invest in the country.
Hon. Pen’Apala noted that DRC faces security challenges in the eastern part of the country, adding that the country was therefore keen on tackling these challenges together with the EAC.
The Minister disclosed that DRC had embarked on a national programme of reconstruction in various sectors including infrastructure, agriculture, energy and environmental conservation. He said that DRC had the world’s second largest natural ecosystem in the Congo Forest and was keen on preserving this system from wanton destruction to mitigate the effects of climate change.
Asked whether DRC’s membership to EAC would pose challenges because it already belongs to COMESA and SADC, Hon. Pen’Apala said that there was no problem in multiple membership to various regional economic communities (RECs), adding that all RECs in Africa were working in harmony to ensure that Africa becomes a real common market by the year 2063.
Hon. Pen’Apala was addressing journalists after the official launch of the negotiations between the EAC and DRC for the admission of the latter into the Community in Nairobi, Kenya.
Speaking at the media briefing, the Chairperson of the EAC Council of Ministers who is also Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for EAC and Regional Development, Hon. Adan Mohamed, said that the EAC and DRC negotiation teams were expected to conclude their negotiations within 10 days.
Hon. Mohamed said that the report of the negotiations would then be presented to the Council who would later submit it to the Summit of EAC Heads of State for consideration.
CS Mohamed said that the negotiations between EAC and DRC for the admission of the latter into EAC was good news for a continent that has been performing below its potential in terms of its share of global trade.
On his part, EAC Secretary General Hon. (Dr.) Peter Mathuki said that EAC expects seamless negotiations with DRC that would result in increased trade and investment opportunities for the benefit of the people of East Africa.
The Secretary General said that substantial progress had been made since the Verification Mission visited DRC in the months of June and July 2020.
“As you are aware the 18th Extra-Ordinary Summit of Heads of State, the summit received and considered the report of the Council on the Verification Mission on the Admission of the DRC to join the EAC and directed the Council to expeditiously commence and conclude negotiations with the DRC for admission to the East African Community and report to the next Summit,” said Dr. Mathuki.
Dr. Mathuki said that the negotiations were an important milestone in the entire roadmap of the admission of DRC into the EAC.
“Once this phase is successfully concluded, it shall pave the way for the accession phase which literally concludes the admission process and upon pronouncement of Summit on the matter, DRC will be admitted as the seventh member of the EAC,” said Dr. Mathuki.
“DRC’s intention to join the Community is not by default. DRC shares borders with five (5) EAC Partner States, namely Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda and South Sudan,” added the Secretary General.
Also present at the ceremony were the Speaker of the East African Legislative Assembly, Hon. Ngoga Martin, the Judge President of the East African Court of Justice, Justice Nestor Kayobera, EALA Member Hon. Kennedy Kalonzo, Kenya’s EAC Affairs PS Dr. Kevit Desai and his South Sudan counterpart Hon. Andrea Ariik Malueth.
Leading the negotiation teams is Dr. Alice Yalla for EAC and Prof. Serge Tshibangu Kabeya for DRC.
Uganda Doubles Health Workers to Clear Trucks Backlog at Border Posts
Uganda said it was increasing health officers at the Busia and Malaba borders posts, from 50 to 100, as part of efforts to clear the backlog of trucks at the border posts.
Dozens of trucks laden with petroleum products and other goods have been stationed at these borders due to delayed covid-19 testing triggering a low supply of fuel in Uganda which has led to price hikes and immediate protests.
The delay of trucks was largely caused by Uganda’s rejection of Covid-19 test certificate issued by Kenya government. However, after the impasse, Uganda has agreed to recognise the Covid-19 test certificate that shall be issued by Kenya’s Ministry of Health with a validity period of 72 hours using either PCR or RDT testing protocols.
Kenya, on her part, informed the 3rd Joint Multi-Sectoral Virtual Meeting of Ministers of EAC Affairs, Health and Transport held on Friday of the availability of sufficient Covid-19 rapid diagnostic test (RDT) kits and staff to support Uganda in Covid-19 testing at the border posts.
Kenya affirmed readiness to immediately deploy 15 or more health workers and provide RDT test kits to enhance Covid-19 testing at Malaba and Busia border posts.
The meeting that was chaired by Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for EAC and Regional Development, Hon. Adan Mohamed underscored the need to minimize administrative delays to enhance rapid clearance of the existing backlog at Malaba and Busia borders. They noted that the current trend of clearing truck drivers was not sufficient to clear the truck backlog.
The Cabinet Secretaries/Ministers commended the Republic of Uganda for progress made in implementing the directives made on 10th January, 2022 and urged Uganda to increase her capacity of testing truck drivers to facilitate faster clearance of goods.
The meeting urged the Republic of Kenya to support the process by providing additional workforce and equipment to expedite the testing and clearance process.
The Cabinet Secretaries/Ministers directed the Secretariat to convene a follow-up meeting of the Ministers/Cabinet Secretary of health to discuss the long-term solutions to easing cross-border movement.
The Friday meeting was a follow-up to the 2nd Joint Multi-Sectoral Virtual Meeting of the Ministers/Cabinet Secretaries responsible for EAC Affairs, Health and Transport that was held on Monday, 10th January, 2022. At the time, more than 4,500 trucks had stalled at the two border posts due to the mandatory Covid-19 testing requirements introduced by Uganda on 20th December, 2021.
The 2nd Joint Multi-Sectoral Virtual Meeting noted that this was a deviation from the 14 days Covid-19 testing period, previously agreed at the regional level and monitored through the Regional Electronic Cargo and Drivers Tracking System (RECDTS).
To mitigate future recurrence of the border traffic impasse, the 2nd Joint Multi-sectoral Meeting further directed Partner States to recognize certificates from accredited/national recognized laboratories with a validity of 14 days for fully vaccinated truck drivers and 72 hours for unvaccinated truck drivers moving goods across the region.
Further, they agreed that Partner States should implement the EACPass to fast-track verification of Covid-19 test results.
“The EACPass is a system that integrates all EAC Partner States’ negative test results for Covid-19 and those vaccinated, and can be easily accessed on mobile phone. It is set to ease the turnaround time at border points,” said EAC Secretary General Hon. (Dr.) Peter Mathuki.
The 21st Meeting of the Sectoral Council of Ministers responsible for Health further approved the EACPass as a regional platform to facilitate movement of all persons in the region and beyond and also directed EAC Partner States to facilitate the implementation and use of the EACPass as a platform for quick verification of Covid-19 test certificates and vaccination status for travellers.
East Africans Mobilsed For Mass Vaccination Against Covid
East Africans have been called upon to turn out in large numbers and get vaccinated against covid as the only way to contain the further spread of the deadly pandemic.
Dr.Peter Mathuki the EAC secretary General said on Monday that resistance to vaccines was undermining efforts to jumpstart the regional economy after the damage caused by the virus.
He said that the global trend was that vaccination certificates would soon be required for travellers and those seeking to participate in meetings and conferences.
Dr. Mathuki hailed EAC Partner States for their on-going effort to integrate their systems with the EACPass, a digital system that would be used to track negative Covid-19 test results and vaccination certificates thereby easing cross-border travel and trade in the region.
The SG who was making his New Year Address to Staff of EAC Organs and Institutions through a hybrid format, said that synergy among EAC Partner States and other stakeholders was the best way to contain the pandemic.
“One of the most gigantic challenges of our time is how to manage our region with the current global pandemic. It is a daunting task to bring everyone on board in addressing Covid-19 related challenges, specifically to have a common understanding and appreciation of the risks, and to comply with preventive, containment and mitigation measures. I encourage that we pull together, notwithstanding that the situation is worsening with the emergence of the Omicron variant,” said Dr. Mathuki.
“We continue to operate under a challenging environment of Covid-19, which has and continues to affect every organisation and family. As a result of Covid-19, EAC as a region, has lost a number of leaders and citizens,” said the SG.
Dr. Mathuki reminded EAC Staff of their obligation to assist Partner States overcome diverse socio-economic and political challenges that face the region by developing relevant policies, strategies, guidelines and systems to address the challenges.
Dr. Mathuki hailed EAC Organs and Institutions for various achievements in 2021.
He disclosed that the East African Legislative Assembly had held eight (8) sittings during which it passed several Bills among them, ‘The East African Community Competition (Amendment) Bill, 2020’ and ‘The East African Community Integrity and Anti-Corruption Bill, 2021.”
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