Infrastructural investment is crucial if East Africa wants to receive the full benefits of regional integration, a senior Kenyan government official has said.
Al Hajji Rashid Kibowa the Commissioner Economic Affairs in the Ministry of East African Cooperation (MEACA) said EAC states need to commit themselves more towards investing in infrastructure.
“East Africa’s infrastructural challenge is a well documented challenge that is affecting the speedy integration process. Issues of bad roads, inadequate energy and lack of interstate connections need to be addressed,” said Kibowa.
He made the remarks during the national workshop on Developments in the Regional Integration process organized by the he Southern and Eastern African Trade, Information and Negotiations Institute (SEATINI) held at the Grand Imperial Hotel on Thursday.
Kibowa pointed out to the participants drawn from the civil society that infrastructure investment is critical if the region wants to receive the full benefits of regional integration.
“An estimated 90% of East Africa’s cargo is carried by road, this presents enormous challenges since 91% of East Africa’s road network is unpaved. This can be alleviated if investment is made in the region’s underperforming rail sector,” he said.
More than a decade since it was rekindled, the East African Community integration process is deepening, but the challenges facing the integration units and people are intensifying.
“The responsibility now lies with the civil societies and the privates sector to act and help in fostering the integration process further,” he said.
He said civil society should open up and take up the challenge regarding how the EAC regional integration is proceeding.
“Such workshops are instrumental in providing policy makers, civil society and the private sector with information and analysis that can be used to champion their concerns towards regional integration.”
Mathias Kasamba (Kakuuto) the Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee, EAC integration said improved infrastructure would be a good boost in enhancing trade within the region.
Trade between the EAC states expanded from USD2.2 billion in 2005 to USD4.1 billion in 2010. The region is also globalizing rapidly. The value of its total trade with the world doubled from USD17Â½ billion in 2005 to USD37 billion in 2010, expanding the share of its economy that is traded from 28% to 47%.
Fred Badda (MP. Bujumba) said issues of Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) that are restricting free movement of goods needs to be ironed out.
Non-Tariff Barriers refer to restrictions that result from prohibitions, conditions, or specific market requirements that make importation or exportation of products difficult and or costly.
“The EAC partner states and governments need to harmonize their laws to solve issues of NTBs,” said Badda.
Non-Tariff Barriers to trade can arise from: Import bans general or product-specific quotas, complex, and discriminatory Rules of Origin as well as quality conditions imposed by the importing country on the exporting countries.