President Uhuru Kenyatta arrived in Arusha, Tanzania, Thursday afternoon to attend the 22nd Ordinary Summit of the East African Community (EAC) Heads of State.
On arrival at the Arusha Airport, President Kenyatta was received by Tanzanian Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation Minister Amb. Liberata Mulamula and Kenya’s acting East African Community and Regional Development CS Betty Maina who is also the chairperson of the EAC Council of Ministers.
The Summit, whose theme is ‘EAC: Deepening Integration, Widening Cooperation’, will be preceded by a high-level retreat on the EAC Common Market where the East African leaders will take stock of the progress of implementation of the EAC Common Market Protocol.
At the retreat, convened by President Kenyatta in his capacity as the chair of the EAC, the Heads of State are also expected to agree on a roadmap for the full realization of the Common Market among other things.
Addressing the press in his office ahead of President Kenyatta’s arrival in Arusha, EAC Secretary General Dr. Peter Mathuki said the President, together with his counterparts from the region, will on Friday morning officially open the 42.4 km Arusha Bypass road before chairing the EAC summit.
“The EAC bypass road is one of the roads sponsored by the EAC and connects Arusha to the Namanga road, all the way into Kenya. This road is going to reduce the number of days people take transporting goods into Kenya and into Tanzania.
“For business, the time taken on the road is very critical and that is why they will be opening that road, whose design and even securing of the funds for the construction were done during the tenure of President Kenyatta as the chair of EAC,” Dr. Mathuki said.
The EAC Secretary General pointed out that other key achievements of President Kenyatta as the EAC chair include the admission of DR Congo into the community.
“DRC is a full member and the seventh partner state of the EAC. That was achieved during the tenure of President Kenyatta as the chair of EAC. It is through his guidance, through his support and through his vision that we were able to bring DRC into EAC,” Dr. Mathuki said.
Dr. Mathuki noted that the coming onboard of DRC with a population of 100 million has expanded the regional economic bloc’s market by raising its population to over 300 million people.
“This is also a huge milestone achieved under the guidance of President Kenyatta as the chair of the summit. And that is one of the things that we will sit, as a community, and say President Kenyatta has been able to do for the community,” the EAC Secretary General said.
Dr. Mathuki said President Kenyatta’s tenure as the EAC chair also saw the implementation of the common external tariff that discouraged the importation of goods that could be produced locally.
He added that it was also during President Kenyatta’s first and second tenure that the EAC was able to resolve 245 non-tariff barriers that allowed the movement of goods with ease from one partner state to another.
“That is now contributing to the growth of the intra-EAC trade. Looking at the intra-EAC trade at the time he came, it was about 13%. It has increased to 15% during President Kenyatta’s tenure.
“We have removed some internal tariffs on locally produced goods within the region. That has now moved the growth of trade to US$ 6 billion from US$ 4 billion,” he said.
Other achievements during President Kenyatta’s tenure at the helm of the EAC include the implementation of the single customs territory with 13 one-stop border posts within East Africa and the conclusion of the Mutual Recognition Agreement for a number of professions including accountants, engineers, architects and veterinary officers.
According to the EAC Secretary General, President Kenyatta has raised the bar such that whoever will take over from him as the chair of the regional economic bloc will have to do a lot to match his standards.