The East African Community wants a coordinated approach by all partner states in combating Covid-19.
The EAC Secretary General Dr. Peter Mathuki wants Covid-19 testing charges and quarantine administrative procedures harmonised across the region, to ease free movement of people.
“We have been pushing for EAC Partner States’ governments to adopt a coordinated approach in combating the pandemic,” said Dr. Mathuki during a virtual meeting held today as he marked 100 days in office.
“We are also pushing for the adoption of the EAC Pass, which integrates all EAC Partner States’ negative test results for Covid-19, and those already vaccinated to ensure safe and seamless travel across the region.”
Currently each partner state has put in place different Covid-19 response regimes, which have proved costly to business and travellers.
The amount charged for Covid-19 testing and the period it takes to quarantine upon arrival in each partner state varies.
“There is need for the strengthening of public-private sector cooperation for joint investment in the manufacturing Covid-19 vaccines,” he said.
The secretary general, however, noted that there was immense hope in the horizon with all partner states having embarked on national vaccination drives, adding that more work needs to be done to increase vaccination levels in the region that currently stand at two per cent vis-à-vis seventy per cent in other parts of the world.
“The EAC Adhoc Regional Coordination Committee, which has since 2020 been supporting the EAC partner states through interventions including supporting testing capacity, provision of laboratory supplies, test kits and personal protective equipment, policy guidance and training of key personnel, among other steps, would continue with its work until the pandemic was fully contained,” he explained.
The EAC Adhoc Regional Coordination Committee for Covid has been steering the regional response activities against the pandemic, including coordination of policy organ meetings and mobilisation of resources.
Dr. Mathuki disclosed that he had already held consultations with the members of the Summit of Heads of State to seek their views on how the Community should be run.
During his 100 days in office, Dr. Mathuki paid a visit to Heads of States in the EAC including holding talks with Tanzania’s president Samia Suluhu Hasan, President Paul Kagame (Rwanda), Kaguta Museveni (Uganda), Salva Kirr (South Sudan), Evariste Ndayishimiye (Burundi) and Hussein Mwinyi (Zanzibar).
“The Heads of State reiterated that the Community should be steered in the spirit of the EAC Treaty that puts emphasis on a people-centred, market driven and private sector led integration process. These, to accelerate regional growth, create wealth and reduce poverty in the region,” he said.
“They further emphasised the need to take the EAC integration to the people at the grassroots, as they are the actual owners of the process.”
On recruitment to 49 vacant positions within the EAC that had been advertised earlier this year, Dr. Mathuki said the Community had received more than 20,000 applications for the positions, noting that the deluge of applicants was a demonstration of the eagerness by East Africans to serve in the Community.
The Secretary General said that the profiling and shortlisting of candidates had already been completed, adding that the Partner States through the Council of Ministers had already resolved outstanding issues that had been blocking the recruitment.
The Director General of Customs and Trade at the EAC Secretariat, Mr. Kenneth Bagamuhunda disclosed that several milestones have been recorded in reducing cost of doing business in region in form of clearance time and documentation at the borders.
“The turnaround period has reduced tremendously from the ports to the inland and also inland to the ports in regard to export of goods. We have achieved about 70 per cent reduction in terms of turnaround time,” he said.
Both Mathuki and Bagamuhunda were speaking during the SG’s First 100 Days Forum held today in Arusha that focused on the highlights, challenges and achievements since he assumed office on 27th April, 2021.