The East African Community (EAC) Tuesday tabled before the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) the budget estimates for the 2023/2024 Financial Year totaling US$103,842,880 for the 2023/2024 Financial Year.
Tabling the speech before the Assembly, the Chairperson of the Council of Ministers and Burundi’s Minister for EAC Affairs, Youth, Sports and Culture, Amb. Dr. Ezéchiel Nibigira, said that the budget estimates for the Financial Year 2023/2024 were being presented at a time when the EAC economies were experiencing global shocks arising from the on-going Russia-Ukraine war, tight global financial conditions, lingering effects of Covid-19 and the impact of climate change.
“Despite these challenges, economic growth in the region improved to 4.8 percent in 2022 from 3.5 percent in 2021. The strong growth in the region was supported by the good performance of the industry, services, construction, mining and manufacturing sectors,” said Dr. Nibigira.
“Global economic growth is expected to remain weak, mainly due to anti-inflationary measures and geopolitical risks,” added the Minister.
Nibigira projected a positive outlook for EAC economies, largely driven by the strong performance of the services sector, prudent government policies and increased public and private investment.
“However, downside risks remain, attributed to weaker global growth, tight financial conditions and climate change risks,” said the Minister.
Hon. Nibigira disclosed that the EAC total trade increased by 13.4 percent to US$74.03 billion in 2022 from US$65.268 billion in 2021.
“In 2022, EAC total exports to the rest of the world were valued at US$20.139 billion, while total imports from the rest of the world into the EAC amounted to US$53.891 billion. Further, total intra-EAC trade grew by 11.2 percent to US$10.910 billion in 2022 from US$9.810 billion in 2021,” said the Minister.
“The major Intra-EAC traded products are cereals, cement, iron and steel, live animals, petroleum products, sugar, foods and beverages, which signify that our economies are agro-based with good signs of moving to industry-based.”
The 2023/2024 Budget is themed “Accelerating Economic Recovery, Climate Change Mitigation and Enhancing Productive Sectors for Improved Livelihoods.”
On priorities for the 2023/2024 FY, Hon. Nibigira said that the Community would focus on nine (9) priority areas, namely: strengthening of regional governance processes, and domestication of regional and international commitments for sustainable peace and stability; increasing sensitisation, visibility, knowledge, awareness and participation of the private sector, citizens and other stakeholders in the EAC integration process, and; harmonisation of trade related policies, laws and regulations, and streamlining of customs and trade facilitation systems for increased trade and investment.
Other priority areas are: harmonisation of fiscal and monetary policies, and establishment of requisite institutions towards the realisation of the East African Monetary Union, and; leveraging modern technologies to enhance productivity, value addition, and to promote regional supply and value chains and digital platforms;
Also under focus will be the: enhancement of the regional productive capacity and increase in value addition to improve the economic welfare of East Africans; strengthening of the social sectors to improve the social welfare of East Africans; improvement and expansion of quality multi-modal and multi-sectoral infrastructure to support free cross-border movement, and; strengthening of the capacity of all EAC Organs and Institutions to effectively discharge their mandate.
The 2023/2024 Budget has been allocated to the EAC Organs and Institutions as follows: EAC Secretariat – US$50,931,553; East African Court of Justice – US$4,450,488; East African Legislative Assembly – US$17,681,365; Lake Victoria Basin Commission – US$8,471,980; Inter-University Council for East Africa – US$12,394,945; Lake Victoria Fisheries Organisation: US$2,807,993; East African Science and Technology Commission – US$2,016,543; East African Kiswahili Commission – US$1,502,535; East African Health Research Commission – US$2,193,811, and; East African Competition Authority – US$1,391,667.
This year’s budget is an increase from the amount of US$91,579,215 approved by the August House for the 2022/2023 Financial Year.
On the EAC Single Customs Territory, the Minister said that enhancement and interconnectivity of Customs Systems is at the forefront to facilitate seamless exchange of trade information and faster clearance of goods across borders.
“All processes relating to the accreditation of Regional Authorized Economic Operator Programme, and the issuance of the EAC electronic certificate of origin have been automated.”
“In the 2023/2024 FY, Customs will, among other things, focus on: the consolidation and updating of the regulatory framework for the Single Customs Territory to ensure sustainability of the gains made so far; integrating the Electronic Cargo Tracking Systems along the Transit Corridors, and; enhancement of interconnectivity of systems in key sectors to facilitate information exchange;
On trade, the Minister disclosed that the EAC has continued to put in place mechanisms to enhance intra-EAC trade and, at the same time, actively participating in the negotiations at the Tripartite (COMESA, EAC and SADC) and at the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
Among the achievements in the 2022/2023 FY were the resolution of 23 out of 32 Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) that were reported with the remaining nine (9) NTBs at different stages of resolution. The Community also finalised and submitted to the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat the EAC offers for tariff and services liberalisation.
“This facilitates trade between the EAC Partner States with other African countries under the AfCFTA framework. Additionally, three of the EAC Partner States are participating in the AfCFTA Guided Trade Regime which involves match-making of firms ready to trade within the AfCFTA framework,” he said.
On the implementation of the Common Market Protocol, Nibigira said that in the FY 2023/2024, the Secretariat will continue tracking Partner States’ progress in amending identified noncompliant laws, regulations and administrative guidelines impacting on the key freedoms and rights under the EAC Common Market Protocol.
On the Monetary Union, the Minister informed the Assembly that during the FY 2022/2023, the EAC Statistics Development and Harmonisation Regional Project was restructured into the EAC Project of the Eastern Africa Regional Statistics Program for Results (EARSPforR).
“The project is supporting the production of harmonised and quality statistics through capacity building of the National Statistical Offices (NSOs) and the EAC Secretariat and the delivery of the statistical requirements for monitoring the progress towards attaining the macroeconomic convergence criteria as set out in the East African Monetary Union (EAMU) Protocol.”
On the establishment of institutions to support the EAMU, the Dr. Nibigira said that the Council of Ministers had approved the organisational structure for the East African Monetary Institute (EAMI) and initiated the administrative process for identifying the host Partner State for the EAMI, adding that the EAMI is expected to carry out the preparatory work for the creation of the EAMU.
On the establishment of payment and settlement systems in the region, the Minister said that the EAC Secretariat continues to support the Partner States’ Central Banks in implementing a secure, efficient, and reliable payment and settlement system to ensure efficient flow of transactions within the region through the EAC Payment and Settlement System Integration Project (EAC-PSSIP).
“The EAC-PSSIP is supporting the modernisation of financial market infrastructure, including: putting in place business continuity and disaster recovery sites for Central Banks; upgrading the high value payment systems (real time gross systems); implementing Automated Clearing House (ACH) for retail payments systems; and capacity building for staff through training and exchange programmes in financial institutions with advanced payment systems operations.”
With regard to conducting national consultations for the drafting of the Constitution of the EAC Political Confederation, Nibigira said that the consultations in Kenya were held in May 2023.
“Consultations have already been undertaken in Burundi and Uganda. In the FY 2023/2024, the national consultations will be undertaken in the remaining Partner States.”
On the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), the Minister said that the Assembly had recorded many achievements including the: passage of the EAC Customs Management (Amendment) Bill, 2022 to enhance seamless operations of the EAC Single Customs Territory; the EAC Financial Service Commission Bill, 2022 and the EAC Surveillance, Compliance and Enforcement Commission Bill, 2022 which further lays the foundation for the establishment of the EAC Monetary Union; and the EAC Supplementary Appropriation No.3 Bill, 2022 which provided the legal framework for the Supplementary Budget.
“In the FY’ 2023/2024, the Assembly will prioritise enactment of the remaining Bills that are a prerequisite for the establishment of the Monetary Union, and enactment of the following pending bills from the 4th Assembly: The Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) Bill; The EAC Youth Bill; The EAC Cross Border Trade in Professional Services Bill; The EAC Pharmaceuticals Bill, The EAC Emblems (Amendment) Bill; The EAC Sexual and Reproductive Health Bill; The EAC Cultural Heritage Bill; and The EAC Standardization, Accreditation and Conformity Assessment Bill” said the Minister.
On the East African Court of Justice, the Minister disclosed that the Court had seen an increased number of matters filed before it, as a result of its enhanced visibility and the rising confidence among East Africans in the its operations.
“During the FY 2022/2023, 105 matters were filed before the Court compared to the 77 matters filed in the FY 2021/2022.”
Dr. Nibigira said that though the Court has seen an increase in the number of matters filed, it has also seen a considerable increase in its case backlog. The case backlog increased from 183 matters in FY 2021/2022 to 265 matters in FY 2022/2023.
The Minister said that the Court’s priority interventions in the FY 2023/2024 will be to increase the number of days for its sittings, conclude more cases in a timely manner, enhance the skills of Judges and staff for efficient delivery of justice, conduct sensitisation and awareness programmes in the Partner States, and enhance collaboration with other regional and international Courts.