East African Community’s integration efforts have received a boost with Sweden saying it will continue to support the region.
Miss Katrina Rangnitt, the Swedish Ambassador to Tanzania and the EAC, said cooperation among the five EAC Partner States was crucial to relations between Sweden and East Africa.
Amb Rangnitt was speaking when she presented her credentials to the EAC Secretary General, Ambassador Richard Sezibera at the EAC Headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania.
In the past nine years, Sweden has offered EAC financial support amounting to US$851,676, monies that have been channeled through the EAC Partnership Fund.
Welcoming the Swedish envoy, Dr Sezibera appreciated Sweden’s support to the Community noting that the Swedish support has been used for among other things the negotiations of the Economic Partnership Agreements between the EAC and the EU as well as boosting the health sector in the region.
In addition to supporting the activities of the EAC Secretariat, Dr Sezibera noted that the Partnership Fund has also been used to the Community's specialized institutions such as the Lake Victoria Basin Commission and the Inter-University Council of East Africa.
Briefing Amb Rangnit, the Secretary General noted that plans were underway to ensure that the regional airspace was a unified territory throughout East Africa.
“As we increasingly become an effective Customs Union on the ground, we shall have to do the same for East Africa's Airspace,” he said, adding that you cannot have the Customs Union on the ground only.
The Secretary General said the Community requires a lot of support to facilitate trade in services noting that significant progress had already been recorded in the free movement of goods as enshrined in the Common Market Protocol.
He pointed out other achievements as the reduction of Non-Tariff Barriers to the free movement of goods, the convertibility of the Partner States national currencies and cooperation in the development of infrastructure.
“Our Infrastructure programs are largely on track. Many of the One Stop Border Posts have been completed and are being operationalized. I congratulate the Partner States for ratifying the One Stop Border Bill, and the Axle Weight Control Bill. This puts our Community in good stead to strengthen the operations of our Customs Union,” he said.
He disclosed that the EAC Heads of State Summit had agreed on a 10-year Infrastructure Development Strategy which among other things lays emphasis on public-private partnership investments in railways, roads, ports and energy in the region.
Egypt to boost Trade with the regional bloc
Presenting his credentials to the Secretary-General, Egypt’s new Ambassador to Tanzania and the EAC, H.E. Mohammed Yasser Ala’Eldeen El Shawaf, said his country was eager to boost trade and technical cooperation with the EAC Partner States.
Dr Sezibera welcomed the Egyptian Ambassador, describing Egypt as an important trading partner for the EAC. He praised Egypt’s outstanding role in promoting negotiations for the Tripartite Free Trade Area (FTA) between the EAC, COMESA, and SADC.
When fully implemented, Dr Sezibera noted that the Tripartite FTA would move the African Continent from the margins of Global Trade, adding that it was a good basis for the Continental Free Trade Area envisioned by the African Union.
The Secretary General thanked Egypt for making a tariff offer to the EAC and went on to request Egypt to encourage the other member states to negotiate as a bloc instead of doing so as separate entities saying this would hasten the operationalization of the Tripartite FTA.