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Sister Cities can help promote EA interests

The event was graced by the presence of Mayors from East African cities, as well as representatives from Councils, NGOs, Business and Youth in the region. [The African Executive]. EASC was established following the signing of a MoU between SCI and the Inter-Region Economic Network (IREN) last August.

Its major objectives are “to develop, coordinate, incubate, help sustain existing city, town and municipality links worldwide — with emphasis on promoting South-South city-twinning, and strengthening sister cities in the region.” It’s through city-twinning that individuals, communities and organized groups can establish close relationships with other local or international counterparts.

Such partnerships allow the twinning communities to creatively learn, work and solve problems through cultural, educational, municipal, business, professional, technical and project exchanges. In the event, EASC will use this initiative to boost peace and economic growth through trade exchanges and tourism.

To that end, it’ll involve all stakeholders in ensuring that the relationships so established offer avenues to empower the communities in the region, sharing best practices, finding solutions to common challenges, and together exploring avenues to increase revenues generation.

Speaking at the launching, Ms Kane said “Africa has a lot to offer to partners within and outside the region — and that, through city-twinning, there’d be cultural exchanges, sharing of business opportunities between the partners, translating into economic empowerment, peace and prosperity…”

How true! In that respect, she was supported by the Kenya Minister for EA Cooperation, Musa Sirma. In a speech read on his behalf by Eliazer Muga, Chief Economist at the Ministry, Sirma welcomed the EASC initiative, saying “it offers synergy to the progress of the EAC… It’s important to underscore the potential role of the (programme) in embracing regional integration, and ensuring access of its benefits by the citizens…”

Great is the EASC potential in catalyzing regional integration — and urban centres can’t be left out of the integration processes. Indeed, the initiative’s an important vehicle for driving an all-inclusive approach to a development in the region, Sirma said in his speech.

EASC comes at a delicate time when the EAC is approaching the more controversial stages towards total regional integration that culminates in a Political Federation, complete with one President, Legislature, Judiciary — the whole governmental caboodle! Four major EAC integration stages are outlined in The Treaty for EA Cooperation which came into force in 2000.

These are a Customs Union (established in January 2005; becoming fully-fledged in January 2010); a Common Market (established in July 2010); an EA Monetary Union (EAMU, tentatively slated for this year)- - and, ultimately, a Political Federation, slated for 2015 at the latest (?)!

Other integration processes already been achieved are an EA Legislative Assembly (EALA) and an EA Court of Justice, as well as the Customs Union and the Common Market. These latter two have seen to some tangible achievements, including the creation of a ‘common market’ of 140m consumers with a combined GDP of US$74m at the official exchange rate.

More opportunities are available — at present and in the future — for all the EAC member states of Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania. But, perhaps naturally enough (?), the largest economy in the region, Kenya, has been reaping most of the benefits, sometimes at the expense of the other member states, Tanzania included. For example, the value of Kenya’s exports to the other four EAC countries grew by 36.7 per cent in five years, rising from Ksh73 billion in 2005 to 101.3 billion by the end of 2010.

Oh, there’re more such examples whereby regional integration is bringing about positive developments, either separately or severally for the member countries… But, mostly for those countries which are already having the best of the regional and global economies: especially Kenya and Rwanda! This is wherein comes EASC: to help promote regional integration on a more equitable basis, all things being equal.

But, at the same time, countries like Tanzania must also play their part to the hilt, taking full advantage of arising opportunities and potential development partners such as EASC... After all circumstances tend to favour those who try their hardest and do their best at self-development.

As the EAC launching ceremony calculatedly took place on a Feb. 29, celebrating same can only take another four years hence... More than enough time in which to critically look back on Feb 29, 2012 and see how much progress has been made! Cheers!

israellyimo@yahoo.com

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Author: KARL LYIMO

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