REGIONAL TRADE

EAC secretary general Mathuki to prioritise Covid-19 recovery

The new secretary general said Friday marked the beginning of a new era for the EAC.

In Summary

• The sixth EAC secretary general said the Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted livelihoods and negatively impacted the economic growth in the region.

•  He called on the community to develop urgent transformation plan to support sustainable economic recovery.

Outgoing EAC secretary general Amb Liberat Mfumukeko of Burundi hands over to Kenya's Peter Mathuki on Friday, April 23, in Arusha Tanzania
Outgoing EAC secretary general Amb Liberat Mfumukeko of Burundi hands over to Kenya's Peter Mathuki on Friday, April 23, in Arusha Tanzania
Image: EAC

Incoming EAC secretary general Peter Mathuki of Kenya has said he will do everything in his power to make sure the integration process “takes is rightful place".

Mathuki acknowledged the region is facing multiple challenges, some of which have whittled down the gains made by member states on economic growth and social dynamics.

“The key challenges the region is facing include the Covid-19 pandemic, elusive peace and tranquillity in some of the neighbouring countries, reduced level of intra-EAC trade amongst the partner states, high rates of youth unemployment and underemployment among others,” Mathuki said on Friday during the handover ceremony.

The sixth EAC secretary general said the Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted livelihoods and negatively impacted the economic growth in the region.

“It behoves us, as members of the EAC, to develop a coordinated approach in responding to this pandemic so that together, we can triumph in our common agenda for economic integration and sustainable development,” Mathuki said.

He called on the community to develop an urgent transformation plan to support sustainable economic recovery.

“It can’t be business as usual but rather calls for unity of purpose – working collectively as a team to serve the great people of East Africa.

"In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, I pledge to work with all stakeholders in the region to ensure swift economic recovery of our region, as well as build our own capacities, given the disruptions occasioned by the pandemic." Mathuki said.

He urged member states to take advantage and embrace Buy East African, Build East Africa to support the region’s manufacturing sector in the production of face masks, PPE, oxygen cylinders and enhanced immunity improving natural products among others.

The new secretary general said Friday marked the beginning of a new era for the EAC, “a bloc to which so many East Africans and the rest of Africa look up with pride and for inspiration."

He said he had taken on the duty to work towards a “prosperous, secure and politically united region” that is people-centred and private sector-driven.

"The EAC belongs to all of us - the people of East Africa,” he added.

Outgoing secretary general Liberat Mfumukeko of Burundi called on EAC states to engage in citizen awareness campaigns on the EAC integration agenda and its benefits to the people and encourage their participation.

"I as end my tenure at the EAC, I promise I shall remain a servant of the East African Community, even at my new appointment at the World Bank. I wish Dr Peter Mathuki great success as he steers the integration agenda forward." Amb Mfumukeko said.

He was appointed to the World Bank as International Development Association Borrowers' Representative and Co-Chair for the Africa Group 1 (22 countries including all EAC partner states).

OPPORTUNITY TO SERVE

Mathuki thanked the EAC Summit for giving the opportunity to serve.

“It is a privilege that I will cherish for the rest of my life,” Mathuki said.

With Mathuki as secretary general, Kenya now has the power and influence to make prompt decisions to resolve non-tariff barriers and trade disputes in the region.

He said he will prioritise the finalisation of the comprehensive review of the EAC Common External Tariff and its uniform application in the bloc, which he said is long overdue.

“I will be keen to fast-track the process by end of this year. I will also be pushing for the implementation of liberalisation of trade-in services, open skies, harmonisation of domestic taxes and standards; and adoption of the One Network Area by all partner states to reduce the high cost of telecommunications in the region,” Mathuki said.

He said he will prioritise the admission of DR Congo to the community, which he noted is urgent and strategic to the region.

Mathuki also committed to end the “push and pull amongst the EAC organs and institutions”.

In the recent past, there have been hostilities in the region, with latest dispute being over a maize ban at the Namanga border and the diplomatic/ trade tiff between Kenya and Tanzania, and Uganda.

Mathuki was appointed secretary general on February 27 after receiving endorsement from heads of state at a virtual summit.

Mathuki, a long-term executive director of the East African Business Council, was fronted by the private sector as a suitable candidate to help address challenges in the EAC.

He is not new to the EAC as he previously served as a member of the East African Legislative Assembly.

Edited by Henry Makori