March 29, 2019

Despite Significant Achievements, EAC Faces Serious Setbacks

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I take this opportunity to thank President Paul Kagame for finding the time to grace this occasion. I also wish to thank the Chairperson of the EAC Council of Ministers for convening this Retreat. This Retreat comes at time when the Community is registering multiple accomplishments in widening and deepening economic, political, social and cultural integration which we shall celebrate and again a number of challenges that we shall collectively address in the course of this Retreat.

Your Excellency,

2019 is a significant year, as the Community will be marking its 20th Anniversary in November. We will be marking two decades of the revitalized EAC integration process. Since the signing of the Treaty for its establishment 20years ago, the EAC has indeed registered great achievements some of which I will highlight below.

President Paul Kagame takes group photo with delegates at the Strategic Retreat of the Council of Ministers and Heads of Organs and Institutions of EAC, Kigali Convention Center, March 29 2019

The first critical achievement is the operationalization of all the Community Organs provided for in the Treaty. This is an important and crucial development as each Organ has a vital role in the implementation of the EAC Treaty objectives. In addition, the Community has established/revitalized and operationalized eight (8) Institutions with specialized mandate. The East African Legislative Assembly since formation has actively played its oversight role and also enacted several bills that have facilitated the integration process. EAC has also seen an increase in the number of cases handled by the East African Court of Justice. Indeed the EACJ has opened sub-registries in the Partner States, and therefore taking the Court closer to the people. Similarly, membership to the community has doubled from three (3) to six (6) member states.

In the Projects and Programmes side, several achievements have been realized over the period. I will not go into the details in this area as I am sure, in the Retreat Agenda we shall be interrogating the same issues. But suffice to mention a few highlights:

Your Excellency,

Achievements – Projects & Programmes

Allow me to make some highlights in regard to progress in key projects and programmes. In the Infrastructure sector, a number of projects are ongoing and others are in the pipeline, spreading across all Partner States. In 2018, AfDB approved the Regional Strategy for East African to the tine of US$ 2.5 Billion, to cover projects in infrastructure and energy. The Partner States continued implementing the EAC priority infrastructure projects. This includes interconnecting Multinational Roads, the construction of Standard Gauge Railways; Ports infrastructure expansion and automation; One Stop Border Posts infrastructure as well as the establishment of a One Area Network in some Partner States. 

Under the Social Sector: The Heads of State declared the EAC a Common Higher Education Area in 2017. This has facilitated the recognition of academic certificates and the transfer of credits from higher education institutions across the region. University students in the region are now enjoying their ability to transfer credits across universities and study anywhere within the region. In addition, scholarship programmes have been availed to several students to study at various Centers of Excellence. Regional integration has been further enhanced through mobility of academic Staff in which University Lecturers are able to undertake academic activities such as teaching and research across the region.

The EAC has also implemented various health projects in the region. These include equipping the Partner States with Mobile Laboratories to better facilitate rapid identification of infectious disease outbreaks, as well as, several immunization programs throughout EAC in which millions of children have received life-saving vaccines.

In an effort to further improve the lives of the citizenry, the EAC has established Centers of Excellence for Higher Medical Education, Health Services and Research. These Centers of Excellence are: The East Africa Kidney Institute in Kenya; The East Africa Heart Institute in Tanzania; The East Africa Cancer Institute in Uganda; The East Africa Nutritional Sciences Institute in Burundi; The East Africa Biomedical Engineering Institute in Rwanda; and The EAC Regional Center of Excellence for Vaccines, Immunization and Health Supply Chain Management in Rwanda.  I acknowledge the efforts by my Predecessor for having initiated the groundwork for the creation of the above centres of excellence.

Your Excellency,

Under the Productive Sector: In implementing the Summit Decision on Automotive, Textiles and Leather Industries, in 2018 the Secretariat commenced the process of launching an East Africa Automotive Industry platform as a way of implementing the EAC action plan for the automotive sector. The Secretariat has similarly developed draft strategies for cotton, textiles, and leather sectors that will serve as policy instruments to reverse dependency on export of raw cotton and hides and skins, and facilitate development of local supply base of clothing and footwear, and the creation of jobs and reduction of poverty in the region.

The EAC Lake Victoria Water and Sanitation Project (LVWATSAN II) has implemented various interventions aimed at developing and/or improving water supply and sanitation services for 15 secondary towns in Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. These projects, most of which were commissioned in 2018, were designed to provide reliable portable water to the populations until 2035.

In the Energy sector, implementation of projects under the East African Power Master Plan has shown a positive improvement on power. The Secretariat has continued to mobilize resources to support various projects under the Energy Sector. In 2018, we singed a US$ 20,000,000 agreement with USAID to support the Energy sector.

Our ambition for the region is to be recognized as a single tourist destination. During the year 2018, the EAC Secretariat undertook joint tourism promotion at the major international tourism trade fairs in Berlin and London. Furthermore, the review of Classification Criteria for Tourism Accommodation Establishments and Restaurants commenced in August 2018. The review is aimed at taking into account the international tourism trends and best practices in order to ensure that the region enhances its competitiveness and positions itself adequately in the global tourism market.

In 2018, the Sectoral Council on Agriculture and Food Security adopted the EAC Regional Agriculture Investment Plan (RAIP), which is a key instrument in rallying financial and technical support to spur agricultural transformation in the region.

In 2018, EAC made headways in supporting entrepreneurship in the Agricultural sector. With support of FAO, a program was implemented to build capacity and provide financial support to young entrepreneurs in the agriculture sector. Also, in collaboration with the German Federation of Industries, GIZ and the East African Business Council, a program was initiated to mentor and help growth of small and medium enterprises especially in the field of Agro-processing. We are prioritizing Agriculture for resource mobilization, the Secretariat has already engaged the AfDB for more support in this area.

Stakeholder involvement:

The EAC Secretariat has continued to strengthen partnerships with various key stakeholders.

In this spirit, in November 2017, EAC and EABC established an EAC-EABC Technical Working Group (TWG) comprised of staff from the two institutions to spearhead private sector development in the region. The TWG has developed a regional Investment Action Plan. In addition, the EAC is working on an EAC Invest Guide and an Investment Helpdesk which will be completed within one year. EAC has also commenced the development of a Buyers and Sellers Platform, an online platform that will provide a wider market for the EAC products. This is one of the initiatives being championed by the Technical Working Group (TWG).

In June 2018, EAC signed an MoU with Google and Singularity University – a hi-tech incubation centre based in the Nasa Ames Research Park in the Silicon Valley. While we have been successful in having young innovators from EAC hosted for few months in the Silicon Valley, we have also undertaken negotiations to have hi-tech innovation centres established in the EAC region. Discussions are on going with Oxford University who have already proposed degree and professional training programs to be offered in the region. We are keen on successfully pursuing these initiatives; indeed, there is evidence that over the last few decades, formerly developing countries such as India and other countries in the Far-East have leveraged emerging technologies to achieve remarkable economic development.

Your Excellency,

Achievements – Operational

In addition to these achievements, considerable efforts have also been put in place to enhance the operations of the Community. Various measures have been implemented in an effort to reduce our expenditure. In 2016, we embarked on reforms to ensure that no staff travels for more than 50% of their time, 25% of all EAC meetings are held via video conferencing, most of the meetings to be held in Arusha and all meetings are convened for a maximum of four (4) days. In the Financial Year 2014/15 the EAC travel expenditure was US$ 19 million.  In the Financial Year 2016/17, our travel expenditure stood at US$ 11 million. The implementation of these reforms reduced the EAC travel budget by 42% during the 2016/2017 Financial Year.

The risk status of an organization is measured through its internal controls, accounting, auditing and procurement procedures. A lot of work and reforms in these key pillars has been undertaken over the last two years, with a view of ensuring compliance to international standards. Consequently, EAC successfully went through an European Union (EU) fiduciary risk assessment in 2016. In an effort to further enhance our processes and procedures, the EU has committed to provide the EAC Technical Assistance in the Procurement, Project Coordination and Audits units. Further, the African Development Bank has agreed to support the Community with the establishment of project design/ preparation and management function.

The EAC received a Qualified Audit in the Financial Year 2016/2017 due to technical reasons. These technical matters were addressed and subsequently, in December 2018, the EAC received a Clean Audit Report for all EAC Organs and Institutions for the Financial Year 2017/2018. This Audit has effectively put an end in all previous allegations on the mismanagement of funds by the Community. In addition, I wish to inform you that all monies borrowed from the General Reserve to facilitate the World Bank Project was refunded, and the matter cleared by the Auditors.  

The EAC has also operationalised a Projects Coordination Unit with support from TradeMark East Africa. More than 50% of the EAC budget comes from contributions by the development partners. The Project Coordination Unit has improved coordination of project funding, which has resulted in improved efficiency towards implementation and reporting of projects.

The achievements registered by the EAC have earned us international recognition as the top performing REC on regional integration overall by internationally renowned institutions like the African Development Bank, European Union and the World Bank. Further, these achievements have also attracted the attention of some of our neighbors, with some States having expressed their keen interest in joining our Community.

Your Excellency,

Challenges – Implementation

The vision of EAC is to be a prosperous, competitive, secure, stable and politically united East Africa. Despite these significant achievements, the Community faces some challenges that hinder the swift realization of our vision. These include:

  1. Non-Compliance with signed Protocols

The EAC Common Market Protocol came into force in July 2010. Article 47 of the Protocol states:

“The Partner States undertake to approximate their national laws and to harmonise their policies and systems, for purposes of implementing this Protocol.”

In July 2019, we will be marking nine (9) years since the protocol came into force, unfortunately, some Partner States are yet to approximate or harmonise their national laws, policies and systems. As a result, the full implementation of the Common Market protocol remains challenging. Subsequently, the free movement of persons and factors of production anticipated to spur regional economic growth remain restrained.

Further, as we implement the Customs Union and Common Market Protocols; various barriers to their effective implementation have also cropped up; these include the introduction of both Tariff and non-Tariff Barriers at Customs and Immigration desks in the Partner States.  While the respective Sectoral Councils have made efforts to address these matters, the people of East Africa have been the most affected.

The secretariat has often times received complaints from the citizens on facing various challenges at customs and immigration desks. These include the denial of entry into a Partner State without being furnished with the reasons for the denial; the confiscation of travel documents by immigration officials upon arrival into a Partner State followed by the requirement to report to a police station daily, similarly without due process. Students enrolled in Universities different from their Partner State of origin being charged tuition fees as an International Student. These not only restrict the free movement of persons as enshrined in the Common Market Protocol, but also waters-down the achievements of the Community.

2. Involvement of Key Stakeholders in Decision Making

While the EAC integration agenda is people centred, market driven and private sector-led, we are not effectively involving our key stakeholders, such as the private sector, civil society and other interest groups, in our decision-making processes.

3. Lack of awareness

Although many people appreciate the benefits of integration, a number of stakeholders in the region remain skeptical of the EAC agenda. The populace needs to understand regional integration and how the various EAC policies serve their national and perhaps personal interests.

Being a people-centered integration, our people do not feel they are part of this journey, they can not explicitly spell out a single benefit, all because they are simply not aware of what has been done, and what opportunities are available.

The EAC integration agenda can only inspire the populace in the Community if they own its content and there is a common understanding of the shared goals, objectives and benefits.

To address the challenge, the EAC Secretariat kicked off the Financial Year 2018/2019 with various awareness campaigns. These included a media tour of all EAC Institutions, aimed at communication to the citizens the various institutions of the Community, their mandate and achievements to date. In addition, video documentaries of EAC projects were developed and are currently being aired in all TV stations in the region. To tap into the rapidly evolving world of digital communication, shorter 5-minute video clips highlighting various EAC projects where also developed and are being used on various social media outlets. It is our hope that we will soon be able to produce video documentaries highlighting the achievements in each EAC sector. Further, a comprehensive concept note has been developed to proposing activities to be undertaken to publicize the Community and its achievements as we mark our 20th Anniversary. This concept note will be presented to the 38th Ordinary Meeting of the Council.

Your Excellency,

Challenges – Operational

While these challenges affect the integration agenda at regional level, there are several other challenges we face at operational level. Please allow me to highlight few:

  1. Liquidity issues

The Community has been facing severe liquidity issues. The lack and/or late disbursements by Partner States leave the Organs and Institutions of the Community unable to effectively execute their mandate. As of January 30th 2019, contributions by Partner States towards the EAC Main Budget stood at 45%. Consequently, several activities have been postponed due to lack of funds.

Fifty (50) percent of the EAC main budget is donor funded. EAC integration should not be a Donor-dependent. We need to take ownership of our agenda and identify alternative financing mechanisms for the Community – a matter that has been on the table for several years now.

2. Postponements of Meetings

The Treaty and the Rules of Procedure require a 100 percent attendance to statutory meeting. We have had many cases where meetings have been postponed or cancelled because of quorum hitch when a country is unable to attend. This has caused delay in making some decisions and implementing key activities. This needs to be revisited to ensure adherence to calendar of activities.

3. Long Decision-making processes

There is need to review our decision making process to ensure efficiency and timeliness. There are issues that have been on the table for more than eight (8) years. Good examples are the institutional Review and the Alternative Financing Mechanisms for the Community. While the two processes have a great bearing in the running of the EAC, they have been on the discussion table for too long.

4. Working Relationship between Partner States, Organs and Institutions

The Partner States, Organs and Institutions should and must work as Partners. There has emerged a trend of “flexing muscles” and contesting for ultimate authority by Partner States. Staff of the Community are the Experts in their respective fields, but often times they are not given the opportunity to air issues or clarify matters.

5. Overlapping Sectoral Council and Committee mandates

Several Sectoral Councils have been established to better facilitate the implementation of the various EAC Sectoral projects and programmes. In addition, several committees have also been established. While the initial intent was to create an avenue for quick decision-making and speedy implementation activities, this is not necessarily the case today. With time, we have noticed there are Sectoral Councils whose mandate overlaps with other Sectoral Councils, and the same applies for Committees. There is need for harmanisation.

6. Comprehensive Review of Rules and Regulations

The EAC Staff Rules and Regulations where last reviewed in the year 2006 and this review included staff salaries. Staff salaries were last reviewed in the year 2006. Since 2006, there has been no consideration of the costs of living with reference to staff emoluments. It is assumed; all living expenses in the region have remained constant since 2006.

There is need to embrace a Healthy workforce. While EAC Staff have a premium medical insurance cover. There have been several instances where we, as members of staff of the Community, have held fundraisings, to raise funds to help settle a colleague’s medical bill. This is a matter that needs also to be addressed.

Your Excellency,

Proposed area of Action by Council:

  1. To address liquidity issues, the Council should fast track finalization of the Alternative Financing Mechanisms’ for the Community.
  2. The Council should also fast track the finalization of EAC reforms, i.e the Institutional Review.
  3. Due to growth from three (3) to six (6) member states, the Council should commence the process of reviewing the Treaty as well as the Staff Rules and Regulations
  4. The Council should consider and adopt the proposal to enhance the decision-making process of the Community
  5. There is need for the Council and the various Committees of the Community, to build a stronger working relationship with the Staff of the Community. We should all see ourselves as partners, with a common vision.
  6. The Council should revisit the roles, composition and functions of various Committees, including the Ad Hoc Services Commission and Finance and Administration Committee.
  7. The Council should accommodate flexibility budget making at the Community and appreciate the expansion of cooperation projects and programmes; the number of institutions and staff increases, and the need to implement framework protocols in Customs, Common market, Monetary Union and Summit level activities in Political Federation.

Your Excellency,

These challenges are surmountable. However, addressing some of them call for review of the Treaty, Staff Rules and Regulations and other policy documents that guide the Community. Hence, I expect that in the course of this Retreat, we shall be able to look at the most efficient paths to resolving the challenges currently facing the Community.

Your Excellency,

Allow me to conclude by stating that, strong political commitment is necessary to realize regional integration. This must be reflected in national level measures and actions taken by individual States that are geared towards the implementation of the decisions of the Community. In this regard, EAC Partner States need to ensure efficient coordination between the objectives of the Community and national economic policy making, and ratify and implement decisions, agreed protocols and instruments in a timely manner as well as observe the Fundamental and Operational Principles of the Community as denoted in the Treaty.

I thank you all for your attention and wish this Strategic Retreat fruitful deliberations!

Amb. Liberat Mfumukeko is the Secretary General of the the East African Community (EAC).

This is a speech he made during the Strategic Retreat of the EAC Council Of Ministers and Heads Of EAC Organs and Institutions. March 29, 2019, Kigali Convention Center, Kigali, Rwanda

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