Caption: President Mwai Kibaki receives the signed common protocol report from Minister Amos Kingi during the launch of the EAC Common Market.
President Mwai Kibaki officially launched the East African Common Market Protocol and expressed optimism that levels of investments in the region will increase.
The Head of State pointed out that the Common Market will also lead to the free movement of labour, capital, goods and services within the region and open up employment opportunities for people of the East African Community member states.
"The Common Market will avail greater opportunities for trade in goods and services. The common market will also provide opportunities for greater capital mobilization to boost investment in the region," President Kibaki said.
President Kibaki was speaking Wednesday evening at Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi where he officiated at the colourful launch.
The President, therefore, urged elected leaders at all levels to embrace the market and the East African Community integration in general.
The President said public servants should also play a greater role in the process to enable Kenyans to reap the benefits of this positive development, noting that despite the huge potential benefits inherent in the East African Community integration process some Kenyans were still not fully aware about what the community means to them.
"It is my expectation that public servants charged with executing the Common Market especially those responsible for immigration, labour, customs and education will facilitate the process rather than adopt a control attitude," President Kibaki said.
Noting that the existence of work permit fee chargeable to EAC citizens seeking employment in the region is a barrier to the enjoyment of the freedom of movement of workers, the President pointed out that Rwanda and Kenya have entered into a bilateral arrangement where they have mutually waived the fee for work permits for their citizens.
In this regard, the Head of State directed the Kenyan Immigration Minister to waive fees on work permits for all East African citizens to facilitate the EAC citizens seeking work in Kenya.
President Kibaki also called for amendment of national legislations which are not in harmony with the requirements of a Common Market as espoused in the Protocol to conform with the new development so as to extend national treatment to all EAC citizens.
In this connection, the President directed the Attorney General to take measures to prepare a miscellaneous amendment Bill to table in Parliament for their consideration.
President Kibaki also took the opportunity to salute the founding fathers of EAC Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere and Dr. Milton Obote for their vision and thanked them for planting the seed of East Africa.
"Despite the challenges we have faced their vision of a strong East African Community has lived on," the Head of State said.
Noting that the community is now made up of five states following the successful entry of Rwanda and Burundi, the President also commended the people of these two nations for having the faith and trust to join the East African Community.
Said the President: "Together we are now five countries with a total area of 1.85 million square kilometers, a combined population of 126 million people and a combined GDP of 75 billion U.S. dollars. This is a great region with vast potential for business and social networking for our people.
President Kibaki also noted with satisfaction the successful implementation of the East African Customs Union is bringing tangible benefits to all the EAC partner states, adding that the revival of the Community in general has led to increased trade among the partner States.
He observed that contrary to fears that were expressed, implementation of the Customs Union has now led to increased revenues across all the partner states.
"Increased cross-border investment within the region is being realized and firms are now increasingly basing their business plans on the regional market, rather than the national market," the President said.
The President also pointed out that the Foreign Direct Investment trend in the EAC region has been on the upward trend, saying according to the Uganda Investment Authority Kenya is among the top 10 sources of foreign direct investment to Uganda with 27 licensed investment projects worth 158 million US dollars
In Tanzania, President Kibaki said, Kenya is the second biggest investor with 270 companies operating there providing jobs for more than 100,000 people.
In this connection, the President also saluted modern day movers of the community, Kenya's retired President Daniel Arap Moi, retired President Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania and President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda who held a meeting in Harare, Zimbabwe in 1991 and agreed to revive the East African Community.
President Kibaki that the Harare meeting led to the establishment of the Permanent Tripartite Commission in 1993 and the formation of the EAC Secretariat in 1996, institutions which oversaw the negotiations and the ultimate signing of the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community on 30th November 1999.
"The Treaty which came into force on 7th July, 2000 provided for the four land marks in the EAC integration process of the Customs Union, Common Market, Monetary Union and ultimately the Political Federation," the President pointed out.
The President congratulated all citizens of East Africa for the historic achievement and wished them great prosperity under the East African Common Market.
Speaking during the occasion, Vice- President Kalonzo Musyoka commended President Kibaki and other EAC Heads of State for expanding the community to five members with a population of 126 million people.
The Vice-President noted that the integration process has come a long way and a lot of progress has been made, adding that the EAC now stands tall as a regional economic bloc.
On his part, East African Community Minister Amason Kingi thanked President Kibaki for according full support to the EAC integration process.
Minister Kingi said the President's dedication and commitment to the EAC has boosted his ministry's morale and enabled it to conduct its activities successfully.
Other speakers at the occasion were the Kenya Association of Manufacturers Chairman Vimal Shah and the East African Community Permanent Secretary David Nalo.