Wednesday October 31, 2018
By Joe Lihundi
Tranquility News Reporter, Arusha
The East African Community (EAC) and development partners (DPs) have officially launched their annual consultative forum, the Head of the European Union Delegation to Tanzania and the EAC, Mr Roeland van de Geer, announced in Arusha.
The forum was initially convened last year to enhance dialogue between the EAC and the DPs on the then draft 5th EAC Development Strategy before heads of state endorsed it during their Kampala Summit in February this year.
Participants resolved last year that the forum should be held annually and that the EAC, EU and the African Development Bank (AfDB) should co-chair it.
“All development partners present to this forum are willing to support key priorities of EAC articulated in the 5th Development strategy,” the DPs said in their joint statement at the headquarters of the bloc on Tuesday.
The forum was valuable for them to align their respective cooperation activities with those of the EAC, stressing that institutional change was crucial for development partners to grasp, given the fact that they influenced their cooperation.
The DPs highlighted the need for the forum to engage representatives from key regional non-state actors, including the private sector, in thematic groups.
“They have a valuable experience of regional integration, they can witness their difficulties that require a response at regional level; they can input a new draft policy and protocol; implement regional priorities; and report on regional challenges,” they said, observing:
“The gap between member states rhetoric regional integration ambitions and their actual commitment in practice requires a sound assessment in the EAC-DPs discussions.”
The EAC Secretary General, Mr Libérát Mfumukeko, said one biggest challenge in the implementation of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th development strategies was inadequate resources.
Notwithstanding the challenges, he said, the EAC had, through its successive five-year development strategies, evolved strong institutions and vigorous programmes delivery.
The EAC development plans prioritise projects in infrastructure — roads, railways, inland waterways, ports and harbors, communications and ICT, energy and civil aviation.
Master plans covering these critical areas of integration have, over the years, been moved to the implementation stages.
The DPs collectively committed about $500 million direct and technical support to various aspects of the EAC integration pillars in the past five years.
“With the revamped collaboration, the integration agenda will progress at a remarkable speed,” Mr Mfumukeko said.
The main contributors to the EAC development programmes include Germany, US through USAID East Africa, EU, and the African Development Bank. The Germany contribution to EAC amounts to €286.5 million, USAID $237.8 million and the EU Euro65 million.
“We at the EAC see this forum as presenting an opportunity for receiving, from the broad range of stakeholders represented here, practical suggestions to buttress our 5th Development Strategy whose key priority interventions require substantial human and financial support,” Mr Mfumukeko noted.
Mr Mfumukeko vowed that the EAC Secretariat, its organs and institutions would make best use of the enhanced collaboration and synergies brought about by the forum.
“It takes a whole village to raise a child, and one hand does not nurse a child,” he said, explaining that the African and the East African proverbs, respectively, highlighted merits of cooperation and partnership among people with a common destiny.
“As a community of like-minded partners, let’s use this opportunity to exchange ideas on available options to mitigate challenges that lie along the path of the EAC regional integration,” he stressed.
Mr Marcellin Ntah, the lead economist with the AfDB East Africa Regional Development and Business Delivery hailed the forum, saying it was a concrete example of the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness in play on the ground.
“It promotes the principle of ownership of the development assistance that may be availed to the EAC and its partner states to drive the region’s development agenda,” he said.
The forum would promote better coordination of development assistance among several development partners to foster synergies and leverage available resources, while avoiding duplication of efforts,” he added.
On its new Eastern Africa Regional Integration Strategy (EA-RISP, 2018-2022, AfDB had projects estimated at $2 billion proposed by the EAC Secretariat, which had been included in the RISP indicative operational programe approved by the Board of the bank on October 10, 2018.
“In the coming weeks and months, we will take full advantage of this mechanism to continue engaging with the EAC Secretariat and its specialised institutions as well as our fellow DPs, on the implementation of the RISP,” he said.
The RISP will specifically focus on two integration pillars, namely regional infrastructure development for economic transformation; and strengthening the policy and institutional frameworks for market integration, investment and value chains development.
The EAC provides a sizable market of a combined population of 160 million and is positioned at the forefront of the Tripartite EAC-COMESA-SADC Grand Free Trade Area which boasts having 26 countries with a combined population of 527 million and a GDP of $624 billion.
The bloc has, indeed, been recognised as one of the fastest growing regions in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Africa Regional Integration Index Report launched recently in Addis Ababa, through the collaboration among the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), AfDB and the African Union Commission, ranked the EAC first among the eight Regional Economic Communities (RECs)