ARUSHA, Tanzania, February 28, 2011/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The Minister to the Office of the President responsible for East African Community Affairs of the Republic of Burundi, and also Chairperson of the EAC Council of Ministers, Hon. Hafsa Mossi today opened the first meeting of the EAC High Level Task Force to negotiate the East African Monetary Union (EAMU) Protocol taking place at the Source Du Nil Hotel in Bujumbura, Burundi.
Hon. Hafsa Mossi reminded the delegates that the provisions of the EAC Common Market Protocol on freedoms of goods, persons, labour, capital and services, including the rights of establishment and residence in the EAC were paramount and hence the need to ensure that there were no overlaps between the Common Market and the Monetary Union.
The Minister, who was represented by her Permanent Secretary, Mr. Jean Rigi, said this will call for EAC Partner States to coordinate and harmonize their financial and regulatory frameworks in order to smoothen their payments systems if East Africans were to enjoy these freedoms.
“As for any process, our efforts towards integration will need time to be fully-fledged and it is a challenge, but it is also possible to overcome impediments if every side plays its part” noted the Minister. The Minister asserted that the Monetary Union will take the East Africans to a higher and deeper stage of integration, saying “let us worktogether so as to make it a reality”.
Addressing the delegates, the EAC Deputy Secretary General (Planning and Infrastructure), Mr. Alloys Mutabingwa disclosed that the EAC Secretariat was in the process of building its capacity to take the negotiation process forward. In this context, the Secretariat had signed a Grant Agreement with the World Bank to the tune of US$16 million to support the EAC Financial Sector Development and Regionalization which will intially be implemented over three years but with an extension for 6 more years.
Mr. Mutabingwa said the project will cover 5 areas with a base component of capacity building including: financial inclusion and strengthening market participants; harmonization of financial laws and regulations against common standards; mutual recognition of supervisors; integration of financial market infrastructures; and lastly the development of a regional bond market.
The Deputy Secretary General affirmed that the vibrancy and stability of the financial sector was a key determinant of a steady economy, national and regional. He said the World Bank support to regional integration came at the right time as EAC strives to implement the Common Market while clearing the ground for the Monetary Union.
Mr. Mutabingwa said the delegates were laying a firm foundatiion for the fully fledged economic community and reiterated the need to ensure that the negotiation process continues on the basis of mutual understanding, professionalism, team spirit, mutual respect and search for a common ground.
The five-day meeting ending on 4 March will be characterized by Working Group and Plenary Sessions. Four working groups namely, Macroeconomic policy Working Group (MWG); Statistics Working Group (SWG); Financial Sector Working Group (FSWG); and Payment and Settlement Systems Working Group (PSSWG) were established at the first Meeting of the HLTF that was held in Arusha, Tanzania from 17 – 21 January 20111.
The Bujumbura meeting is expected to refine the matrices for each working group including the development of the matrix for the Payment and Settlement Systems Working Group (PSSWG).
The Meeting is also expected to consider, review and refine the draft Terms of Reference on the EAC macroeconomic convergence criteria.
SOURCE: East African Community (EAC)