Integration of East African region now a reality, says Uhuru
President Uhuru Kenyatta has said the integration of the East African countries was now a reality and there is no turning back on this dream.
He said much had been achieved and the people from the region had started reaping the benefits of integration.
He cited the ease of movement of people using ID cards rather than passports and improved businesses among the people in the region as key successes to the integration process.
He said there is hope that full integration of the entire East African region is expected to achieved sooner than later.
The president made the remarks as the ministers and experts facilitating the summit recommended that the process towards full political federation be fast-tracked and a report on the matter made during the next Summit.
President Kenyatta was speaking during the 6th Northern Corridor Integration Projects Summit in Kigali, Rwanda.
He said the Heads of state had never failed to meet to update progress on integration since the inaugural summit in Entebbe, Uganda in June last year.
Besides President Kenyatta and the host President Paul Kagame, the president of South Sudan Salva Kiir and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni also attended the summit. Ethiopia was represented by Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Tedros Adhnom.
The Northern Corridor Integration Projects is an initiative aimed at fast-tracking regional development through join infrastructure, trade, political and economic integration for the five member states.
The five partner states include Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan. Ethiopia and Tanzania are observers to the summit
The ministers also recommended that all sections of the multi-billion dollar Standard Gauge Railway line are constructed simultaneously with a timeline between this month and March 2018.
Construction of the Mombasa-Nairobi section of the SGR will commence this month while construction work on other sections commences in October. Other important sections of the SGR include the Nairobi-Malaba, Malaba Kisumu and Malaba-Kampala sections.
South Sudan has also signed an MOU to construct the Nimule-Juba section while Uganda and Rwanda were asked to fast-track the pre-liminary engineering design study for the Kampala-Kigali section.
In their joint ministerial report, the ministers drawn from the participating partner states said there was need to expedite financing from the People’s Republic of China and other sources to meet the October 2014 timelines of commencing construction work of all the sections.
Partner states should also ratify and domesticate the SGR protocals and ensure institutional arrangements are in place before the next summit in Juba, South Sudan, said the ministers.
The ministers recommended that partner states to the SGR will second engineers to the construction of the first section between Mombasa and Nairobi.
On Tourism, the ministers announced a raft of measures to ensure the Single Tourist Visa arrangement is successful and implemented. In this regard, partner states will waiver all visa fees under the East African Tourist Visa (EATV).
These measures include organizing joint fair in specified tourism destinations. The ministers recommended that such destinations as Russia, Dubai, Japan, India be considered as possible locations for promotional trade fairs.
Partner states are also expected to expedite the grading and classification process of hotels and the process be complete by June 2016.
On immigration, trade and labour services, the ministers recommended the harmonization of immigration laws by March 2015 and partner states provide adequate staffing at common borders.
Partner States also agreed on total liberalization of labour and services by December this year. This will be preceeded by a meeting on Labour and Services next month.
It was also recommended that the extension of fibre optic cable between Uganda and Rwanda be completed by June 2015.
Partners states will also consider a comprehensive e-immigration system including on visas, travel documents and border management systems.
There were a raft of other recommendations on ICT, Energy generation and Transmission and Education