East Africans have more to celebrate as the East African Community marks its 20th anniversary, says EAC Secretary General Liberat Mfumukeko.
Speaking at the official launch of the anniversary’s celebrations in Arusha, Mr Mfumukeko said the integration agenda has brought about a number of benefits.
“Unfortunately, we tend to look at the problems, but we’re headed in the right direction regardless of what you have heard recently,” he said in reference to the postponed November 30 Heads of State Summit.
He however noted that the region is still heavily dependent on imports from Europe and Asia.
He recalled the situation 11 years ago, when Burundian companies were struggling to import goods from the port of Dar es Salaam, but the EAC’s programme of harmonising Customs authorities across the region has made doing business easy.
“When I came to Arusha in 2015, we had to stop twice at the Namanga border. It is better today, we can cross more easily than it used to be,’’ he said, referring to the no visa rule for East African citizens moving within the bloc.
The EAC is working on making it easy for students and professionals to work in any country in the bloc.
In healthcare, the EAC has funded the establishment of the first centre of excellence at the Muhimbili National Hospital in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, where all East Africans can have heart disease diagnosis and surgery instead of travelling abroad for the same.
“About three weeks ago, we inaugurated a similar centre for kidney diseases in Nairobi, Kenya,” Mr Mfumukeko said, adding that another programme for training medical doctors was in progress at the Agha Khan University, Nairobi.
He also mentioned the completed Arusha-Namanga-Nairobi and Holili-Taveta roads. And, recently, EAC raised $800 million for the Malindi-Mombasa-Horohoro-Tanga-Bagamoyo road whose construction will start soon.
The community has also negotiated with the African Development Bank for a $2.5 billion facility for infrastructure.
“We’re now in a tendering process, but in two or three years you will be able to go to Lusaunga up to Rusumo and Kigali on a nice road. You’ll be able to go to Kasulu, Manyovu up to Bunjumbura on a highway,” Mr Mfumukeko said.