It is 100 days since Peter Mathuki took the reins of leadership at the East African Community.
Kenneth Bagamuhunda, EAC director-general in charge of Customs and Trade, quoting Donald H. McGannon who said leadership is an action not position, says this describes Dr Mathuki’s leadership style in his first 100 days in office.
Mr Bagamuhunda, who was the master of ceremony in a virtual meeting held on Wednesday also quoted Mark Gorman, an author and a motivational speaker, saying: “Leaders live by choice, not by accident.”
As he marks 100 days in office this week, the most challenging part of Dr Mathuki’s journey as the 6th East African Community Secretary General has just begun.
Re-established 21 years ago under the four pillars of Customs Union, Common Market, Monetary Union, and Political Federation, the regional bloc has been dogged with red tape, among many challenges, and it is unlikely to change much.
Dr Mathuki inherited a divided EAC Secretariat, a laid-back Council of Ministers, donor apathy and hostility among the EAC partner states.
But as the second Kenyan to occupy the SG’s seat — after the first SG Francis Muthaura — his charm offensive has taken him to five of the six EAC partner states. He has met the leaders of Tanzania, South Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda.
“During my inauguration I committed to deploy a team spirit approach. At the Secretariat, we have commenced regular internal consultative meetings with the Heads of Organs, the Executive, the heads of institutions, the heads of directorates and even the Staff to ensure alignment of focus and duty — this has helped to make everyone feel part of the team,” said Dr Mathuki. “My aim is to cultivate goodwill and create rapport with EAC Heads of State. To also brief them on my agenda for the Community and seek their support in executing this.”
East Africa Legislative Assembly members who were some of the harshest critics of the former SG Liberat Mfumukeko have toned down.
“The direction is clearly changing.
‘‘We had problems organising meetings, even the Summit,” said Martin Ngoga, EALA Speaker.
“I am optimistic about his new approach and the support that he is getting from everyone.”
Previously, there was always tension between EALA and the Secretariat partly caused by failure to pay the Assembly members’ sitting allowances in 2020.
“from the point of view of the EALA we have started very well. We have seen a difference and we are supporting him,” said Mr Ngoga.
The EACJ which seemed aloof to the happenings at the Arusha headquarters has not only been fully constituted but has had its budget increased.
“We have organised two meetings with EAC organs since he joined,” said Justice Nestor Kayobera, President of the EACJ.
Covid-19 pandemic has whittled down the gains made by partner states over the years on economic growth and social dynamics.
In March 2021, Tanzania and Burundi did not have in place Covid-19 protocols to deal with the pandemic, slowing down the cross-border trade with their neighbours.
To date, all the EAC partner states have received vaccines and established measures to curb the spread of Covid-19.
President Samia Suluhu Hassan has kicked off mass testing and vaccination of Tanzanian people, a move that had been rejected by her predecessor the late president John Magufuli.
“The EAC is 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,” said Dr Mathuki.
Dr Mathuki added that the EAC Sectoral Council on Tourism and Wildlife Management had met and approved the EAC Regional Covid-19 Tourism Recovery Plan, which is set to help the tourism sector in the region recover from the impact of COVID-19.
On the Customs Union and Common Market pillars, discussions are underway as to whether to adopt a four-band common external tariff (CET) structure -- 0 percent, 10 percent and 25 percent.
The SG said that it was anticipated that an agreement on a rate that is above 25 percent will be concluded before the end of 2021.
Intra-EAC trade had increased significantly over the past three months.
At the Tanzanian-Kenya border of Namanga, trade between Kenya and Tanzania has risen sixfold.
“Intra-EAC trade currently stands at less than 15 percent. I want to give an assurance that the Community would try to raise it over the next five years,” said Mathuki.
On progress towards the full implementation of the EAC One Newtwork Area, Tanzania announced in May that it was currently reviewing its legal framework and would be joining the One Network area (ONA) framework on 30th September, 2021.
Burundi has given an assurance that it will implement the One Network Area by 30th June, 2022.
“Full implementation of the EAC One Network Area is expected to lower the cost of communication in the region and spur intra-regional trade through harmonization of roaming tariffs,” he said.
On the East African Monetary Union, the third pillar of the integration, the EAC Heads of State approved the East African Monetary Institute Act, which took effect on 1st July, 2021.
“The EAC Secretariat invited interested Partner States to submit proposals or applications to host the EAMI,” Mathuki disclosed.
Following this invitation, five EAC Partner States submitted their applications to host the Institute.
“In line with the EAC procedures, the Secretariat is now in the process of constituting a Verification Committee to verify the said applications, including the suitability of the location and facilities being offered to host the EAMI.”
On the EAC Political Confederation, which is the fourth and ultimate stage in the integration, National consultations for the EAC Political Confederation have so far been held for the Republics of Burundi and the Republic of Rwanda.
Plans are at an advanced stage to hold similar consultations in Tanzania, Rwanda, Kenya and South Sudan.
On the anticipated entry of the Democratic Republic of Congo into the EAC, the EAC dispatched a Verification Mission to Kinshasa from 25th June to 5th July, 2021.
A report has since been compiled and would be presented to the Council of Ministers as per EAC Procedures for admitting new members into the Community.
However, observers view the EAC budget of $91million could derail the EAC revival plans and hope that the EAC heads of State summit need to urgently meet to review.