Forum launched to sensitise Uganda on EAC

East African Business week, June 01, 2010

The Ministry of East African Community (MEACA), civil society organisations and private sector organizations have developed an institutional structure that will raise awareness among actors on the regional integration process.

The institution will engage bodies that already have observer status at EAC level like the East Africa Civil Society Forum, create working groups on various sectors of gender, agriculture and trade for easier coordination. Creation of a web based forum was also resolved.

The move follows a two day regional workshop on the integration process organized by SEATINI-Uganda in partnership with CUTS-GRC under the Building an Inclusive East African Community (BIEAC) project.

Participants drawn from various sectors noted that there was need to mainstream regional integration issues into respective areas of work.

They agreed to form working groups which can discuss and advocate for various issues under integration and rotate the responsibility of organising meetings of such a nature so as to relieve the burden on the focal point.

"One of the main factors limiting in the region integration process is the lack of clear linkages for information flow and limited awareness of the whole process which has hindered the effective participation of key stakeholders," SEATINI Uganda Executive Director Ambassador Nathan Irumba said.

The Commissioner Economic Affairs Ministry of EAC, Mr Rashid Kibowa, said Uganda should capitalize on her geographical advantage of being surrounded by countries instead of considering it as a disadvantage to be landlocked.

The Vice President Uganda National Chamber of Commerce, Mr Kassim Omar called for continuous dialogue among the sector bodies.

The Chief Executive Consumer Education Trust (CONSENT) Mr Henry Kimera highlighted prospects for various planned meetings in the run up to the integration process.

Over six month now since the signing of the common market protocol by EAC member states, the region is steadily pushing towards a full economic integration.

The successful implementation of the regional integration process and particularly the common market expected to start in July 1, 2010, will however require understanding the preparation processes at the government level and how these can be translated into action at the grassroots.

Implementation will also require the joint effort and effective participation by all stakeholders in the region and therefore the need to identify backward and forward linkages between the government institutions and organizations participating in the process and to their constituencies.

MEACA as a line ministry, acknowledged the link and went ahead to identify focal points through which various stakeholders can effectively participate in and understand this process.

It identified SEATINI (U) as the national CSO focal point.

SEATINI Country Director Ms Jane Nalunga, said SEATINI as a CSO national focal point recognizes the need to strengthen the region and sector based focal points to come up with clear actions for support and collective engagement.

"It is from this background therefore that SEATINI (U) has in the past year organized two stakeholder meetings in which action plans have been drawn on how to enhance CSO understanding and participation in the regional integration process,' Nalunga said.

The meeting was to shared updates on trade and Regional integration processes at the EAC level and drew an action plan for establishing forward and backward linkages for effective information flow between government and CSOs and their constituencies.