Saturday, July 11, 2009

EAC gets cash to speed up integration

By Cosmas Butunyi - Thursday, June 25 2009

The East African Community (EAC) has received a cash boost from a consortium of donors to help speed up the creation of a common market in the region.

The East African Community Partnership Fund, run mainly by countries from Europe, will inject about Sh680 million ($8.5 million) in the next financial year up from Sh528 million ($6.6 million).

The cash will help fast-track the integration of Rwanda and Burundi into the EAC, planned re-branding of the bloc and facilitate common market negotiations, which have largely been sluggish due to Tanzania’s opposition to ownership of land and the free movement of people, goods and services.

The cash boost comes at a time when member states have fallen behind in remitting their contributions, a move that has made it difficult for the secretariat to discharge its duties including holding parliamentary sessions.

Build capacity

The outgoing chair of the fund’s steering committee, Tromsdal Kjersti, who is also the political affairs officer at the Norwegian Embassy in Tanzania, said the support was aimed at building capacity of the EAC organs and enhancing integration. She is being replaced by Annti Putkonen, the second secretary in the Embassy of Finland in Tanzania.

Donor support takes the bulk of the EAC’s 2009/10 financial estimates. Out of $12,238,553, members jointly contribute $1,919,105.

However, by end of April, none of the five countries had honoured their contributions fully.

The support comes as Rwanda and Burundi are set to be formally admitted into the EA Customs Union on July 6, five days after the union’s protocol comes into force.

Donor aid to the EAC activities have grown over the years since the 2006/07 financial year when it was established.

The fund was formed in September 2006 by EAC and six donor groups: the European Union, the World Bank, Finland, France, Germany and Norway.

It has disbursed a total of Sh715 million (US$9,175,072.27) to fund various projects and programmes. The fund currently has 12 members: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Other non-contributing members are the European Union (EU), Japan and the World Bank.

In the first year, the fund donated US$640,920, which has grown by about 300 per cent over the years.