By East African Community (EAC)
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ARUSHA, Tanzania, June 10, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- The Vice President of the United Republic of Tanzania, H.E. Dr Mohammed Gharib Bilal has said the East African Community is determined to speed up integration along the path the member states have chosen.

Making his keynote speech at the one-day workshop on Competitiveness in East African Countries organized jointly by EAC, World Economic Forum and African Commission, H.E Dr. Mohammed Gharib Bilal noted that in the first decade of EAC existence 2000-2010 the Community witnessed a four-fold growth of its GDP from 20 billion to 80 billion.

He urged EAC member States to sustain the same rapid growth if the region wants to attain middle income status by 2025 and at the same time become more competitive on the global scene.

"We must force ourselves to think as a region, plan as a region, aspire as a region and implement as a region," added the Vice President.

H.E. Mohammed Gharib Bilal reiterated that the region is blessed with abundant natural resources some of which have only recently been discovered like oil in Uganda and Kenya and natural gas in Tanzania. He called for better examination of how natural resources management and agricultural policy issues are handled to enhance EAC competitiveness at the global scene.

On his part EAC Secretary General Amb. Dr. Richard Sezibera said according to the Doing Business Report 2012, EAC rated as one of the fastest growing and reforming economies in the world. In the year 2011 alone, EAC intra-regional trade rose to 23% of total value of exports, which is the highest of all regional economic communities.

Amb Sezibera informed the delegates that region's economy average annual growth rate remain at over 6% with each country performing within a band of between 4% and 11%.

The EAC chief asserted that several key issues with regard to competitiveness need to be addressed to ensure Africa in general, and EAC partner states in particular, reap the benefits of what they have to offer on the world economic stage and this include Public-Private Partnership, infrastructure development, trade liberalization and sophistication of local financial markets.

"I am glad to inform you that a rotational SG CEO Forum that is already in place has provide a platform for regular dialogue between the EAC secretary General and the business community on how to improve the EAC integration process and business climate in order to increase the region's economic growth and development".

On information and communication technology as one of the key drivers of competitiveness, the Secretary General technology transfer had seen productivity gains made easier and that the ICT sector had facilitated economic growth in the region by at least 40%.

Amb. Sezibera applauded massive penetration of mobile telephone innovation such as mobile Commerce which simplified financial transactions and made banking more widely available to people in the EAC.

On infrastructure he said for the region to be competitive it needs to embrace strong infrastructure partnerships with neighbouring states. He informed the delegates that a mechanism is already in place that ensures joint contribution to the implementation of regional infrastructure projects.

The one-day workshop was convened to engage business and government leaders, policy makers, media and civil society in a results-oriented dialogue on policy reforms to meet with international standards and to discuss integrating the countries markets, among others.