MPs call for prioritisation of collaboration with East African member states

The Chairperson of the Parliament Committee on East African Community Affairs, Hon. Noeline Basemera laying the report of the committee before Parliament. (PHOTO Courtesy | UG Standard)

KAMPALA —A Government of Uganda delegation will travel to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) at the end of the month to negotiate business deals aimed at boosting Uganda’s economy.

This was revealed by the State Minister for Trade, Hon. David Bahati, on Tuesday, April 19, 2022, while responding to issues raised in the report from the Committee on East African Community Affairs.

The DRC recently joined the East African Community.

Bahati made the revelation following a recommendation by the committee to support Uganda’s private sector players to access market opportunities in the DRC.
“The involvement of the political leadership of the ministry to participate in EAC Sectoral Council Meetings and coordinate the identification and resolution of non-tariff Barriers and bilateral engagements on trade issues related to agro-trade and private sector development is critical,” reads the report.

Bahati urged Parliament to avail more support to the Ministry of East African Community Affairs so as to ensure that non-tariff barriers to trade across the region are removed.
“One of the things that have been hindering the progress of the community are transport costs and that is why we are talking about the Standard Gauge Railway and Metre Gauge Railway. These will help our goods to be easily transported from Mombasa to Uganda,” Bahati said.

The Chairperson of the Parliament Committee on East African Community Affairs, Hon. Noeline Basemera, observed a declining trend in funds allocated to the ministry having suffered budget cuts worth Shs23.49 billion since Financial Year 2019/2020.
While presenting the committee report, Basemera said that Shs21.4 billion of the ministry’s proposed budget of Shs29.7 billion in Financial Year 2022/2023 is Uganda’s contribution to the EAC translating to 72 per cent of the budget.

She added that the balance of Shs8.3 billion is left to ministry operations, with only Shs4.29 billion going to operations across departments and implementation of core regional activities of the ministry.
“The committee recommends that a reconsideration be made to increase the budget of the EAC Ministry for Financial Year 2022/2023 to Shs35 billion commensurate to the expanding mandate and increasing activities of the community,” Basemera said.

Basemera said the committee also made a proposal for additional Shs2.5 billion to be availed to the ministry in the coming financial year, to facilitate regional engagements.

The EAC has a total membership of about 195.28 million citizens making up 2.5% of the world’s population and a GDP of USD193.7 billion.

Counsel Phiona Rwandarugali an aspiring Member of Parliament for East African Legislative Assembly (EALA 2022 – 2027) called for increased investment in major regional road networks to reduce the cost of movement of goods within the region, saying that “this will boost trade”.

Rwandarugali says the EAC block needs to scale up its production capabilities to benefit from integration and take advantage of its natural resources.

The countries in the EAC bloc have not been able to fully establish a customs union, and while they are working on having a common currency by 2023, experts say that deadline likely will not be met.

Rwandarugali says the DRC technology and Mineral sectors will provide more opportunities for entrepreneurs.

“Equally, member states need to coordinate and harmonize enforcement and compliance efforts for goods moving across the EAC borders,” Rwandarugali said.

“In order to bridge the investment gap in infrastructure, particularly focusing on roads, railways, ICT and energy, we need to apply the public- private partnership framework that is already in place in Uganda and the partner states at a regional level. My vision is to see the national governments of the member states working closely with the private sector on cross border infrastructure projects.”

“Regional Joint venture projects of this nature are likely to be ultimately cheaper for the partner states that participate, more efficient, and more cost effective. This proposal could also work through forming a trust infrastructure fund that could be established and managed as one basket under the management of the East African Community secretariat or other organ jointly set up by the member states.”

“The faster we develop our physical infrastructure as a region, the faster we will achieve full integration!”

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