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President Jakaya Kikwete Delivers State of EAC Address to Assembly in Bujumbura.

   The President of the United Republic of Tanzania, H.E. Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete on 19th March, 2015 delivered the State of EAC Address in Bujumbura, Burundi.President Kikwete who is the Chair of the Summit of EAC Heads of State urged Partner States to spare no efforts in ridding Non-Tariff Barriers in the region to spur the integration process.   He re-affirmed his commitment during his term as Chairperson of the Summit to ensuring total removal of all barriers to trade.“The progress made so far, at the ports of Mombasa and Dar es Salaam and, on the Northern Corridor with regard to road blocks shows that it is possible to eliminate these non-tariff barriers.   Measures are being taken in earnest to reduce road blocks on the Tanzania side of the Central Corridor. I am sure in the next few months we will notice a huge improvement”, President Kikwete said.The President remarked that roadblocks along the central corridor within the hinterland of the United Republic of Tanzania were on the verge of been removed.“Police check points have been reduced from 15 points to 6. Our aim to reduce them to none except when need arises” the Head of State maintained.He stated that the Tanzania Revenue Authority had also reduced the checks from 3 to zero along the central corridor.  He noted that the revenue authority would further reduce the weighbridges from eight to three and to introduce weigh in motion technology.The President informed the House that one such weighbridge was already installed in Vigwaza with another two on the way to Manyoni and Nyakahura on the central corridor.“I am told with the current improvements alone, for a container to move from the port of Dar es Salaam to Kigali takes 3 days from the previous 8 days. It takes three and a half days to Bujumbura from the previous 8 days”, the President reiterated.“I call upon EALA to join in the partnership to ensure the removal of NTBs to make EAC the best region to do business”, he added.The President noted that improved infrastructure would bring down the costs of doing business.  He said poor infrastructure had resulted in the upward and spiral effect of transportation costs resulting in skyrocketing of between 30-40% of the price of goods especially in the landlocked countries.He thus urged the region to invest better on efficient ports, railways, roads, aviation services, energy and telecommunication.In attendance were high ranking government officials led by the 2nd Vice president of the republic of Burundi, H.E. Gervais Rufyikiri, legislators, diplomatic corps and various stakeholders.President Kikwete was emphatic that the incremental approach of the integration process had been a great success.  He said under the Customs Union, the region benefited from enhanced trade through the Common External Tariffs.“Indeed, goods which meet the criteria of rule of origin have been moving across borders without paying taxes however non tariffs barriers remain a challenge.  Progress has been made but the matter has not been resolved fully yet”, he added.“Trade is now at 23 % over and above intra African trade figure of 12 %.  There has been a 300% increase in the value of trade from, 2 billion US Dollars in 2005 to 6 billion US Dollars in 2014, he said.These numbers, coupled with the combined EAC GDP of 110.3 billion US Dollars with an average annual rate growth, of 2.6 percent makes our region a formidable trade and economic bloc in Africa according to President Kikwete.  The Head of State remarked that contrary to initial fears within the Partner States, an increase in government revenue had been recorded as a result of the Customs Union.On the Common Market pillar, the Head of State lamented over its slow progress which he said was discouraging to the EAC citizens.  He noted that the Common Market scorecard 2014 presented at the last EAC Summit in Nairobi shows more good be done.He cited the example with regard to the free Movements of Services, where 63 measures out of 500 key sectoral laws and regulations of Partner States were identified to be inconsistent with the Common Market Protocol.  73 % of these are exclusively related to professional services.The President challenged the Partner States to embrace the wider picture of regional integration in their approach.In this regard, the Head of State lauded EALA for the introduction of the Community Cross Border Legal Practice Bill (2014); the East African Community Electronic Transactions Bill 2014; and the East African Community Competition (Amendment) Bill (2015) and urged EALA to treat the Bills with the urgency deserved.On peace and security, President Kikwete termed subscription to the ideals of the democracy, good governance, human rights and rule of law as critical tenets of the economic bloc.  He said the application of the Republics of Somalia and South Sudan into the EAC would undergo scrutiny on this criteria among others.On the forthcoming elections in Burundi, the Head of State was categorical that the country should hold peaceful, free and fair elections.  He remarked that any attempts to derail the electioneering in the country would be inappropriate.“I appeal to the citizens of the country to adhere to the constitution of Burundi, the electoral laws and the Arusha Accord”, President Kikwete remarked.He said that Tanzania would also vote at the plebiscite for the new constitution in April before the general elections in October.In his welcoming remarks, the Speaker of the EALA, Rt. Hon Daniel F. Kidega remarked that the integration process was stronger given the political will and the commitment of various stakeholders in the process.“Today, the political will is palpable and I congratulate the Summit for the support and direction availed to ensure stability of the integration process, the challenges notwithstanding”, Speaker Kidega said.“Similarly deemed worthwhile is the determination with which the citizenry attach to the successful implementation of the integration process.   The private sector and the civil society have on the one hand demanded and rightfully so, their place within the fulcrum of integration.  On the other hand, they now play a watchdog role in line with the Articles 127 and 128 of the Treaty”, Rt Hon Kidega added.The Speaker cited some of the benefits realized so far as the rising trade volumes which he said had witnessed growth by over 50% fetching the region an estimated USD 3.8 billion, up from 1.6 billion six years go.“We have also realized an upward trend in Foreign Direct Investments in 2013 with an increase of 6.6% to 3.7 Billion dollars compared to what was registered a year before, he said.Rt. Hon Kidega termed the implementation of the One Area Network in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda key in enabling the region to trade effectively.“We have witnessed a significant drop in the calling charges to about 12 US Cents per minute and are indeed looking forward to July this year when Tanzania and Burundi shall be on board,” Speaker Kidega remarked.The EALA Speaker presented areas that needed intervention of the Summit as the amendment of the Treaty which he noted should be done to go with the times.“Let us remain open to the hard fact that integration is living and that the process of amendments should be living as well” he said.The Speaker further rooted for the full autonomy of the Assembly which he said would enable the legislature to undertake oversight more efficiently.Speaker Kidega was of the view that EALA and the Summit of Heads of State need an avenue for annual interface.“Our view would be a carefully thought out regional dialogue/forum that brings together the Summit, EALA and key stakeholders to the roundtable to share experiences,” he stated.The Speaker remarked that sensitization was key and cited the need to reach out to all stakeholders.  He said the Assembly was gearing to meet with the youth populace, whom he termed, critical in strengthening the integration process.On elections, the Speaker urged the entire region to ensure credible, free and fair elections. Burundi is expected to elect Parliamentarians in May before the Presidential elections are held in June.   The United Republic of Tanzania on its part shall hold its elections in October this year.  The polls are to be preceded by a constitutional plebiscite in April.On institutional matters, the Speaker assured the Chair of the Summit that EALA had resolved its challenges and that it was back on track.   Rt. Hon Kidega said the EALA had now adopted Rules of Procedure and a code of conduct to strengthen its governance system.He thanked the Summit for giving the Assembly the much needed space to put its house in order.The vote of thanks was moved by Hon Hafsa Mossi.  Hon Hafsa termed the speech of the President as progressive adding that the policy directives contained therein were key to strengthening the integration process.  He noted that President Kikwete had led the country to be stable and was instrumental in the stability of the regional economic bloc.The State of EAC Address is delivered annually to the EALA by the Chairperson of the EAC Heads of State.For more information click on the link below:http://www.eac.int/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1836:pre...        

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