THE East African Community (EAC) member countries have no option but to accelerate the integration process after President Yoweri Museveni (pictured) of Uganda offered the EAC Secretariat 600,000 US dollars (about1.4bn/-) to support consultation on Political Confederation.
President Museveni pledged that his government would issue the amount to the Secretariat to enable a team of experts collect views and draw the road to the Confederation that will later end up in a Federation.
That amount is in addition to the 150,000 US dollars (347,864,959.6/-) Uganda had given to the EAC Secretariat in November 2019, to fund the process.
He offered the amount after the Minister for EAC Affairs, General Kahinda Otaafire informed the President that 3.5 million US dollars was required to complete the consultations in all the partner states.
President Museveni noted that with the integration, the region will become competitive in the global economy while failure by the respective partner states to form a stronger, more cohesive bloc with a bigger market would be disastrous for the region in the long run.
Mr Museveni was speaking with the Committee of Experts on the Drafting of the Constitution for the EAC Political Confederation at State House, Entebbe on Wednesday. He stressed that integration is not something that East Africans will do or not do.
“It is a must. If we don’t, we shall end up in a very bad situation. The question we should be asking ourselves as we seek to integrate is why we need to integrate. If we can answer that question, the how will become quite easy,” said President Museveni.
The Committee was led by its chairperson, retired Ugandan Chief Justice Benjamin Odoki.
President Museveni cited prosperity for the region, strategic security and the fact that East Africans were peoples of the same origins as the three major reasons why the region needs to integrate faster.
On prosperity, President Museveni said that economic growth comes from the production of goods and services and not foreign aid, noting that development partners can only help a developing country in small ways.
“Prosperity must come from work. Integration is therefore, a must to create a bigger market for the goods and services produced by our people. Just ask yourselves why a huge country like China which has a domestic market of 1.4 billion people is still struggling for more markets despite the huge domestic market. It is the same case with India that also has a very big market,” said President Museveni even as he urged EAC partner states not rest on their laurels.
President Museveni said that EAC partner states’ markets operating individually were small and therefore needed to integrate into a bigger one.
He said that businesspeople in East Africa were in full support of the integration because they were very much inconvenienced by national borders and other non-tariff barriers.
The President, however, said that free movement of persons must have controls with sectors such as land tenure and agricultural production being protected for locals while people from other Partner States focus on skilled jobs in offices, business and public service.
On funding for the Political Confederation, President Museveni suggested that taxes levied on goods sold throughout the region should go towards financing the Confederation