The State Department for East African Community (EAC) is mandated to proactively secure Kenya’s grand national interests through regional diplomacy and shrewd statecraft.
This is a venerable mandate ensconced in the economic diplomacy pillar, being one of the main planks of our foreign policy.
Kenya’s economic and political interests are conjoined to the EAC, a regional economic project that hitherto has safeguarded its interests.
Today, we celebrate EAC’s 24 years of sheer hard work guided by our shared values, common heritage and conspicuous geography.
EAC is an economic bloc and a special purpose vehicle to spur economic transformation of the region in order to put us on the trajectory of sustainable robust economic growth while allocating equal prosperity to partner States.
To this end, the EAC is constructed on four pillars, namely the Customs Union, Common Market, Monetary Union and Politica l Federation with deep econo-political integration being its peremptory goal.
The Customs Union (CU) as the first pillar of the EAC was established and became operational on January 1, 2005.
Indeed, this was a game changer in the trade dynamics of the region. It opened up borders, sought to eliminate tariff and non-tariff barriers and established the much vaunted Common External Tariff (CET) with third parties.
Since its inauguration, CU has unified our approach to intra-EAC trade by putting safeguards in place to ensure that there is fair competition while securing the region against dumping, manipulation and coercion.
It has a provision for small-scale traders (MSMEs). The Simplified Trade Regime (STR) caters for the people and entities at the bottom of the pyramid by ensuring that they robustly participate in regional trade under fair terms.
The CU has helped institutionalise the CET regime and single customs territory among others. The CET and the Rules Of Origin (ROO) are both designed to protect the economic pillars of the region while protecting our nascent industrial base.
There is a direct nexus between the CU and the Bottom-up Economic Transformation Agenda (BETA) pillars. The BETA is a well-engineered economic turnaround tool that seeks to leverage on a value chain approach to multiply Kenya’s economic growth through scintillating pillars that resonate with the aspirations and capabilities of all Kenyans.
The most innovative outcome of the BETA economic architecture is to ensure that the country achieves inclusive economic growth while empowering those at the bottom of the pyramid to contribute their fair share to the economic miracle of our country.
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The two pillars of the BETA are supported by the CU. The CU is the enabler of the agricultural revolution of our country by providing a market space of 300 million people.
Similarly, the EAC acts as the source market for agricultural produce that feed our agro-business industry. Additionally, the CU is ubiquitous in supporting the growth of Kenya’s MSME economy.
Together with the Common Market are foundational pillars of the EAC and are essential in growing the MSMEs to access the regional market and to trade under fair terms. The MSMEs, including those domiciled around the points of entry/exit (PoEs), enjoy market access like none other and their propensity in accessing the regional market is seamless and satisfying.
To this end, the State Department for EAC Affairs will continue to cultivate a facilitative environment aimed at expanding market access for our MSMEs.
The Common Market (CM) further deepens economic cooperation among partner States. It was launched on July 1, 2010.
It provides for five freedoms and two rights. These include free movement of goods, persons, capital, labour and services and the right of establishment and of stay.
The substance and aspirations of the CM are in tandem with the BETA pillars. The Universal Health Care (UHC) is the most discussed subject in the CM Protocol and the Community has a dedicated sector handling health issues.
The Community is seized of the dynamics of the digital superhighway and creative economy. As the global economy becomes more sophisticated, digitisation has become the enabler of economic breakthroughs.
The EAC region is our backyard, our source of security and economic stability. Therefore, we are in EAC to stay.
East African Monetary Union and Political Confederation and BETA are essential pillars in the fulfilment of our dream as a region.
At age 23, EAC is a viable project determined to further integrate the economy of the region through the East African Monetary Union (EAMU) and attain the single currency area by 2031.
The EAMU seeks to accelerate economic growth of the region and empower East Africans to live quality lives. The same economic mantra is reaffirmed in the BETA. Therefore, BETA and EAMU reinforce each other in a symbiotic relationship.
On the other hand, the EAC Political Confederation is a conspicuous initiative by East Africans to establish a political order that will assure us as a region of copious security, law and order and good governance.
Therefore, as EAC celebrates 23 years since its revival, Kenyans should actively participate in doing so knowing that it is our project and the backbone of our security and economic growth.
Abdi Dubat is the Principal Secretary for East African Community