EAC Secretary General concludes week-long working visit to Japan
ARUSHA, Tanzania, February 13, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- The Secretary General of the East African Community, Amb. Dr. Richard Sezibera today concludes a one-week long working visit to Japan organized by the country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
During the visit, the Secretary General met and held talks with the Senior Vice Minister in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Ryuji Yamane; the Vice Minister at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, Mr. Keiro Kitagami; JICA Vice President, Mr.Tsuneo Kurokawa; and several other officials. The Secretary General also addressed the students, academic and non-academic staff at the UN University in Tokyo.
At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Amb. Sezibera hailed the existing relationship between Japan and the EAC that ”has been one of mutual respect and cordial relations dating back to the last century” and underscored that Japanese brand in the region was being held with high esteem.
The Secretary General appreciated Japanese support to the EAC, bilaterally and through intermediary Japanese financed funds at the International Monetary Fund and the African Development Bank and through the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) process.
Amb. Sezibera highlighted the ongoing support to EAC and its Partner States comprising corridor studies; implementation of trade facilitation instruments including automation and IT systems for the Customs Authorities; one stop border posts (OSBPs) design, development and integrated border management systems; Customs reforms; ports and road transport development; and capacity building among others.
He informed the Senior Vice Minister and his delegation that the region had suffered shocks arising from the global financial meltdown, European debt crisis and the surge in oil prices partly caused by the Arab spring uprising.
He said these shocks had seen government revenues failing to meet their targets, currencies depreciating against major world trading currencies, inflation rising, the cost of capital increasing and a general slowdown on growth prospects. He added that Partner States however, through the established monetary committees had put in place a raft of measures to stem the impacts and stabilization of the currency and stock markets was evident.
The Secretary General noted that the global financial meltdown happened at a time the EAC was commencing the negotiations of the Monetary Union Protocol and given the happenings, the region will have to incorporate in the Protocol safeguard measures to protect its Partner States from a structural financial crisis as it happened in the United States and Europe. “EAC is also ready to learn from countries like Japan on how they weathered the storm. A learning mission to the EU has already been undertaken,” observed Amb. Sezibera.
On the TICAD process, the Secretary General informed his host that EAC was fully engaged and had been represented in a number of the Ministerial level planning meetings that have been held in Africa. “We are part of the TICAD process and our active participation in the planning process, both as EAC and the Tripartite should contribute to better programming and prioritization of projects and programmes for support under TICAD,” concluded the Secretary General.
At the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry
The Secretary General commended the Vice Minister, Mr. Keiro Kitagami and his Ministry for its support to the EAC including capacity building for industrial development in the Partner States especially for the small and medium enterprises.
Amb. Sezibera informed the Vice Minister and his delegation that EAC had adopted an industrial development policy and strategy to underpin industrial development in the region and support the process of enhancing the value of manufactured EAC exports and noted that “The Kaizen strategy would be ideal for adaptation in the EAC”.
The Secretary General further noted that given the abundant raw materials in the region, the industrial development strategy spells out the framework for their exploitation including co-investment strategies in industrial development with foreign partners.
He took note that with the Japanese industrial technical capacity, both Japan and EAC would mutually benefit if collaboration in the implementation of the EAC's Industrial Development Policy and Strategy was enhanced as the potential for industrial development in the EAC, both at the SME and large scale industrial level was high.
The Secretary General welcomed the Ministry to send a mission to EAC for further discussions on this matter and share the strategy.
Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)
The discussions between the JICA Vice President, Mr. Tsuneo Kurokawa and Amb. Sezibera centered mainly on JICA's past and ongoing support to EAC and how to deepen and widen the collaboration.
The Secretary General appreciated JICA's engagement with the EAC in the areas of conducting corridor studies, implementing trade facilitation instruments including automation and IT systems for the Customs Authorities, one stop border posts (OSBPs) design, development and integrated border management systems, Customs reforms, ports and road transport development, and capacity building among others.
Amb. Sezibera hailed the JICA support and the work facilitated at the Secretariat by the JICA technical assistance and noted that the milestones achieved within this support include the agreement by the Partner States on the Gross Vehicle Mass among other axle load control standards, completion of the detailed design and arrangement of financing for the Rusumo Border post between Tanzania and Rwanda, completion of the detailed design of the Namanga Border Post where works are commencing in March 2012, the development of the One Stop Border Post Bill which awaits approval by the Attorneys General before enactment by the regional Assembly.
The Secretary General reiterated that extended assistance from JICA was required to support the overall development of an efficient platform to anchor the implementation of the Common Market and the Customs Union.
“This support, which in the past has largely covered infrastructure and trade facilitation instruments, could be extended to cover the remaining areas under the two broad sub sectors,” noted Amb. Sezibera
He informed the JICA Vice President that a number of laws, non tariff barriers, operational regulations, pre-investment studies and designs, and capacity development in transport and trade facilitation could be addressed under a focused JICA support.
“I take note that JICA has already agreed to support the development of an EAC Maritime and Ports Development Strategy and a request has been made to support the study on the development of an EAC Infrastructure Coordination Agency” affirmed the Secretary General.
Amb. Sezibera appealed to JICA to provide the additional US$ 260 million needed for the Arusha–Holili/Taveta–Voi road project. The Arusha – Holili/Taveta – Voi road project, whose pre-investment studies are close to completion is estimated to cost US$560 million, of which the African Development Bank has set aside close to US$ 300 million. The EAC and the Partner States are in the process of mobilizing resources for its rehabilitation and upgrading.
The Secretary General also appealed to JICA to support the railways sub sector arguing that Japan runs very many narrow gauge railways efficiently and the region would benefit from its experience. He said the railways contribution in the EAC as a mode of transport has declined consistently to the extent that currently railways only carry 6% of the freight traffic in the region. “Support in capacity building, pre investment studies and other railways performance improvement strategies would be welcome,” said the Secretary General.
He observed that EAC was an energy deficient region, having lost 3-5% of the combined GDP last year as a result of power outages. The Secretary General thus implored JICA to support the region to operationalize the EAC Energy Sector Development Master Plan and support Partner States to move towards cleaner sources of energy that are climate and environment friendly.
Toyota Tsusho Corporation
The Secretary General also visited the Toyota Tsusho Corporation, a group of Toyota Automobile and informed officials at the company that EAC, through its continuing integration process, aims at improving the business climate through tax reforms, rationalizing the requirements for establishing businesses, enabling free movement of capital, labor and entrepreneurship across the borders, reducing the cost of transportation and other related non tariff barriers, adopting uniform manufacturing and trade standards, investing in higher energy production and improving the framework for commercial dispute settlements.
The Secretary General encouraged the company and its subsidiaries to set up plants in the EAC for the African market and take advantage of the common external tariff, the zero rated importation of raw materials and capital goods and the improving business climate in the region.
Presentation at UN University
The Secretary General addressed students, academic and non-academic staff at the United Nations (UN) University in Tokyo on the topic "Social and Economic Development through Regional Integration” with specific reference to the East African Community.
Japan External Trade Organization
In discussions with the Executive Vice President of the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), Mr. Tomiyasu Nakamura, Amb. Sezibera welcomed JETRO's support in the implementation of the EAC Industrial Development Policy and Strategy and the promotion of Japanese tourism to EAC. JETRO is a government-related organization that works to promote mutual trade and investment between Japan and the rest of the world.
He noted with appreciation that in some countries, the One Village One Product concepts had been introduced with good success and that publicity will be given to the concept for wider application. One Village One Product Campaign is an initiative by JETRO and Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry to introduce products from African and Asian countries to Japan and the store sells over 300 products from many different villages.
Association of African Economy and Development Japan ECA Committee
The Secretary General met the President of the Association of African Economy and Development Japan ECA Committee (AFRECO), Mr. Yano. AFRECO aims to strengthen economic partnership and promotes friendship among Japanese and African people and contributes to mutual prosperity.
The association has provided technical assistance to help develop African traditional local industry and to strengthen foundations of African economic development. Also, for the purpose of creating and strengthening key industries in the African countries, the association has made efforts with other organizations to provide technical and financial assistance for developing the economic infrastructures for this purpose.
The Secretary General invited the Association to propose areas of collaboration and send a mission to EAC for further discussions.
Golden Temple of Kinkau
Before departing Japan, the Secretary General took time off to visit the Golden Temple of Kinkau-ji in Kyoto, the Kiyomizu Buddhist temple in eastern Kyoto established in 778, attended the Tea ceremony and visited the One Village One Product concept at Kansai Airport.