The President maintained that the EAC was on course and its progress irreversible. The President noted that the Community was on the verge of prosperous economic development and better quality of life for its citizens following the significant progress in a number of socio-economic and political spheres.
The Head of State remarked that what the region now needed was to strengthen competitiveness, address costs doing business and reduce risks.
He noted that free movement was a key aspect of strengthening integration and remarked that the Republic of Uganda was committed to ensuring the Identity Cards' project would soon be computerized to spur free movement.
"Once this is done, many more people who cannot access passports which are expensive to acquire", President Museveni remarked.
On matters business, the Head of State remarked that the on-going digitization of customs' systems had made business to be more efficient.
The Head of State called for the opening up and the enhancement of the central corridor to fast track business opportunities and the clearance of cargo. He remarked that the President of the United Republic of Tanzania, H.E. Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete would review and revert back to the Summit over the matter. The President said Uganda would commence the construction of the standard gauge railway from Malaba to Nimule and from Malaba to Kasese to Rwanda border.
The President urged the region to reduce the costs of transportation. A forty foot container From Shanghai to Beijing costs on average 1600 USD, while it costs USD 3700 from Kampala to Mombasa. But the distance between the two cities in China is 1,238 Miles while that of Mombasa to Kampala is 1212, President Museveni added. " Ideally, the costs are high and the days are many due to inefficiencies", he remarked. This affects competition and catching up is a challenge", he added.
The business community, President Museveni said need to reap profits and create employment to enhance their economies, adding that real competition was not between neighbours in EAC but between the region and other nations.
On the Single Tourism Visa, President Museveni maintained that the new date of implementation is February 2014. He said that the countries had put in place systems of revenue sharing. The share arrangement is such that the single entry visa costs USD 100 and that any. country that issues the visa is entitled to a 10 USD, then in addition, equitably sharing the balance accordingly while the rest of the Partner States.
The President however cited violence and instability as hindering factors to prosperity in the continent. The conflicts, President Museveni added are fueled by ideological mistakes. The Head of State noted that instability in Congo, Central African Republic, South Sudan and Somalia among others had an impact on the region. He challenged countries to strive to see maintain nationalism. Prosperity arises out of nationalism and it is in the best interests of citizens of the region to attain this fact while putting to an end sectarianism.
The President said Uganda's economy was expected to grow by USD 28 Billion (Uganda Shillings 70 trillion) at the end of the financial year and remarked that the economy had expanded nineteen-fold than it was in 1986 when the NRM took power.
He hailed the region for realizing the Monetary Union and cited infrastructure as a stimuli for development. Such include roads, telecommunications, ICTs, piped water and electricity among others.
The Head of State said the government had revamped East African Civil Aviation Academy (Soroti Flying School) and was looking at enhanced remuneration for the piloting staff to enable them deliver. The statement came in response to EALA Speaker's plea for the transfer of the SorotiFlying School to be an institution of the EAC.
The President noted that the future and destiny of the region was in their own destiny. In attendance were key government officials led by the Vice President of the Republic of Uganda, Hon Edward Ssekandi, EALA Members and representatives of the diplomatic corp among others.
In her welcome remarks, the Speaker of the EALA, Rt. Hon Margaret Nantongo Zziwa noted that the Sitting was taking place at an irreversible time in the regional integration process. She noted the envisaged entry of the Monetary Union as key in the integration process.
"The signing of the integration pillar was a milestone and I thank the Summit and the Partner States for the historic achievement, Dr Zziwa maintained.
The Speaker urged the region to draw upon the important lessons from other regions in order to manage the roadmap to the single currency carefully.
"It is in our best interest to consult widely as a region to avoid what befell the Euro Zone - which today continues to reel from economic depression, huge public debts and unemployment" she added. The Speaker noted that the region had made significant accomplishments in 2013. She cited infrastructural advancements in rail, energy ports and habors sub-sector as some of the achievements.
"I note the positive construction of the Standard Gauge railway which commenced last year while concerted efforts were made to decongest the ports of Mombasa and Dar es Salaam", the Speaker said.
Rt. Hon Zziwa urged the stakeholders including the Private Sector to sustain efforts to rid Non Tariff Barriers. "It is time for the Private sector for example to oversee an industry developed, implemented and monitored code that checks out on NTBs or their re-emergence", Rt. Hon Zziwa said.
On peace and security, the Speaker called for all cessation of hostilities in South Sudan noting that the recent deployment of the UPDF in Juba was sanctioned by the IGAD to stop the conflict from degenerating any further.
Rt. Hon Zziwa shared the scorecard of 3rd EALA so far, over the last one year to an attentive audience. She cited, inter-alia, the passage of 7 key Bills (One Stop Border Post Bill, 2012, EAC Vehicle Load Control Bill, 2012, EAC Appropriation Bill, 2012, EAC Supplementary Appropriation Bill, 2013, the East African Community Customs Management (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill, 2012 and the EAC Public Holidays Bill, 2013), several Reports and 25 Resolutions - all key to integration dispensation.
Over the next two weeks, the Plenary shall debate on the EAC Co-operatives Societies Bill, 2013, debate on the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Bill, 2014, the EAC Integration (Education) Bill 2014 and the EAC Supplementary Appropriation Bill, 2014. The Assembly is also set to debate and adopt various Committee Reports that shall be brought to the floor of the House.
Moving the vote of thanks, Hon Joseph Kiangoi noted that Uganda had progressed following the leadership of President Museveni.
"Your passion for education for all is helping to develop the country. The initiatives on science and technology in higher institutions of learning cannot go unnoticed. This has resulted in the building of an electrical car (The Kiira EV) in Uganda a few years ago, the only kind in East Africa. Today, Mzee's government is spearheading innovations in agriculture, health and in ICTs. This is laudable" Hon Kiangoi remarked.
Hon Kiangoi said that EALA was committed to actively playing its mandate to strengthen integration.
For more information, contact:
Senior Public Relations Officer,
East African Legislative Assembly,
Tel: Cell: +255-787-870945, +254-733-718036.