East Africa news update – New EAC Secretary General outlines his priorities


Dr. Richard Sezibera, just installed as the new Secretary General of the East African Community and based in Arusha, is the first Rwandan national to hold this important post, which habitually rotates amongst the member states. In one of his first media appearances Dr. Sezibera outlined what he said would be crucially important 5 areas he would have to deal with over the next five years, naming the advance of a common East African currency amongst them. In addition he named the consolidation of the present Customs Union with especially the formation of a single customs territory, following which the internal boundaries and customs check points could eventually be removed with staff re-deployed to the ‘external’ entry points into the EAC like habours, airports and land border crossings from countries around the East African Community.

He also mentioned his desire to have Non Tarrif Barriers removed from all dealings of EAC member states, a message which will find particular favour with a number of aviation bodies in the region, which have especially loudly complained about the ‘shut door’ policy of some countries against the duly registered airlines of others, treating them often as outright foreign against both spirit and letter of existing protocols and agreements.

However it will be the march towards a single currency, which will eventually replace the national currencies of the East African Community member countries, which will capture the imagination of East African businesses and their trading partners, but also of the people of East Africa, as freedom of movement and residence, when fully implemented can only be enhanced by using the same currency across the entire region. New applications for EAC membership are expected to be discussed amongst heads of state present in Kampala this week for the inauguration of President Museveni, and bi- and multilateral talks in particular with President Kabila of the Congo Dr and President Salva Kiir of the Government of South Sudan and soon to be head of state of the new Republic of South Sudan are expected to outline the way forward. Congo DR and the new Republic of South Sudan are the likely next applicants to join the EAC and would have to undergo a process of harmonization first before graduating from ‘applicant member’ to ‘full member’ status. Ethiopia, represented in Kampala for the swearing in by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, is also a likely candidate to submit a membership application in Arusha, and joint massive infrastructure projects like the new planned railway lines between South Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya and the new section from Isaka in Tanzania to Rwanda, Burundi into Eastern Congo lend all more importance to a stronger economic and subsequent political cooperation between the EAC and the neighbouring countries.

One of the key economic sectors across the entire EAC, and potentially also for ‘new’ members is tourism, which in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda is at the top of economic performance and in particular for job creation and foreign exchange earnings, and South Sudan and Eastern Congo – the latter when peace has been fully restored – have the potential to become a tourism force to be equally reckoned with, considering the vast parks and huge migrations in the South Sudan and the wilderness of the Virunga range in Eastern Congo. Even Ethiopia has a largely untapped tourism potential, for adventure activities like white water rafting on the Blue Nile, the Gambela National Park with its big migration of white eared kobs and the Nile Lechwe and the cultural and historical component available from its rich heritage.

Cooperation under the banner of the East African Community is bound to improve East Africa’s tourism foot print and exposure around the world and is likely to attract more visitors to the region, and not just one country at a time, offering the outlook for more investments and more jobs across the region.

Watch this space.