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By East African Community (EAC)
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ARUSHA, Tanzania, April 5, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- The Secretary General of the East African Community Amb. Dr. Richard Sezibera today launched The State of East Africa Report 2012 themed“ Deepening Integration, Intensifying Challenges” at the Hilton Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya.

The Report examines the trends that have taken place in the region since 2006 across six main themes namely the people of East Africa in terms of population growth; natural resource base; human development; infrastructure; economy; and politics and government, and is published by the Society for International Development (SID), an international non-governmental network of individuals and organizations founded in 1957 to promote social justice and foster democratic participation.

Addressing a wide spectrum of stakeholders that included, among others, government officials; the business community; members of the diplomatic corps; civil society organizations; and members of the Media, Amb. Sezibera noted that over the years SID had become an important voice in providing economic, political and social analysis on the challenges and opportunities that regional integration presents to the people of East Africa and acknowledged that the 2012 Status Report was just one of many informative and critical publications provided by SID that interrogates many of the questions that regular East Africans ask themselves each day regarding the benefits of regional integration.

The Secretary General reiterated that regional integration was today acknowledged as the expression and critical feature of good governance and was a critical element in the forward movement of the region within the highly competitive global economic system.

Amb. Sezibera noted that the region had come a long way since the collapse of the East African Community in 1977 and its revival in 2000. He said African leaders and institutions, in both the corporate world and the political arena, were embracing good governance and paying close attention to the dictates of sustainable development. “Africa's century is truly upon us, and East Africa is at the vanguard of this century”, affirmed the Secretary General.

He said “history had taught us that those species, communities, and organizations that are capable of anticipating and adapting to the future survive. Those that are not, disappear. Anticipating the future requires an awareness of the past, a relentless investigation of the present, and the capacity to imagine a different future”.

In this regard, the Secretary General applauded the aims of the State of East Africa 2012, namely to inform, provide insight, and spark imagination and noted that it encourages a collective process of critical and creative thinking about the different ways in which emerging trends might shape the future of the bloc.

Commenting on some of the major challenges highlighted in the Report, the Secretary General noted that poverty persists at high levels. The data in the report suggests that the number of East Africans living below the poverty line increased from 44 million to 53 million in 2010, even though all countries, with the exception of Burundi and Kenya, reduced the share of their population who lived below their respective national poverty lines.

On food and nutritional security, Amb. Sezibera noted that the major drivers of food security including growing populations and their evolving tastes, the climate and the global trade dynamics that shape food prices, escape the direct control of East Africa's national authorities. The region continues to be plagued by severe drought and famine as well as an unbalanced food production and trade regime.

In regard to inequality that is both persisting and deepening within and between countries cross time, the Secretary General noted that the report found a telling trend; every economy in the East African Community grew at a faster pace than the rate of its population growth in the last decade. “This should inherently imply rising per capita income at the aggregate level. Unfortunately, the distribution of the expanding wealth had not been equitable. Equity and inclusion are of course critical. It is telling however, that today, East Africa was discussing how to share wealth, not merely how to get out of poverty, which was the dominant theme 10 years ago”, noted Amb. Sezibera.

In regard to Infrastructure, Amb. Sezibera agreed with findings in the report that suggest that the region had made some headway in extending the road network, dealing with the challenges at the major ports, and started investing in Air transport. However, about 95% of the region's goods were moved by road and this was a key constraint to economic growth in the region and hence the need to urgently focus on investments in the rail network by upgrading, extending and powering it.

The report points out that the EAC region's total installed capacity for generation of electricity was 3300 MW in 2009 and the Net generation of electricity was 13.9 billion kilowatt hours and yet the comparative figure for Japan was 281 Gigawatt for 2008, and generation of 1,015 billion kilowatt hours. Therefore energy and rail, must, of necessity, be regional in nature asserts Amb. Sezibera.

The Secretary General informed the stakeholders that the Community was implementing its 4th EAC Development Strategy (2011-2016) themed “Accelerating and Deepening EAC Regional Integration”. He said the Strategy was by far the most ambitious and sets out the implementation of major regional Master Plans in the key productive sectors with more focus on Agriculture and Food Security, Industry and Manufacturing and Tourism. He noted that the successful implementation of the 4th EAC Development Strategy will stimulate investments, promote employment and growth and, on the whole, lead to the increased diversification and major transformation of the region's economy.

The Secretary General informed his audience that available data indicate that the EAC integration had deepened as trade between EAC Partner States had expanded from $2.2 billion in 2005 to $4.1 billion in 2010; foreign direct investment had increased across East Africa and was estimated to be $1.7 billion in 2010, up from $688 million in 2000.

There was increase in firms investing across the borders in such areas as cement production, financial services, tourism and manufacturing. Infrastructure and energy development and cross border electrification programs had become common practice.

The 1st Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of EAC Affairs of the Republic of Uganda, Rt. Hon. Eriya Kategaya noted at the launch that the Report was very informative and urged for its wide distribution to key stakeholders especially to policy makers. He said there was need to create, within the region, a critical mass of people who should take charge of the regional integration and development process. He said the EAC project was a people-centered project hence cannot be left to the politicians and bureaucrats alone.

The first Deputy Premier urged for consolidation of the milestones so far achieved in the region. In regard to the new found resources in the region, Rt. Hon Kategaya noted that “let it (the new found resources) present opportunities but not problems to the region and there should be no competition within ourselves”, adding that “we should see and manage these resources as East Africans and as a team not as individual Partner States” .

The President of SID and former Secretary General of the East African Community, Amb. Juma Mwapachu said EAC continues to be a shining example of a truly regional economic community and was now attracting serious attention within the world arena. “EAC is a truly roaring lion of Africa and it is imperative to identify the critical success factors in the regional integration as well as the strategic drivers to enable the Community move forward”, Amb. Mwapachu was affirmative.