Arusha — EAST African Community (EAC) is banking heavily on South Sudan as the region's potential food producing hub, with the community's Vision 2050 report asking Juba to start working on the prospect.
The just ended roundtable meeting here to address issues of climate, environment and natural resources management resilience in the region also touched on the issue.
With South Sudan already on board, the EAC through its Arusha-based secretariat is also contemplating to annex new members like Ethiopia and Democratic Republic of Congo to strengthen and expand the region's position as major food and cash crop producer as well as increasing internal market.
"Over 80 per cent of South Sudan's land is considered arable with the potential of becoming the region's breadbasket... Ethiopia has the region's biggest hydropower reserves and is poised to become the leading electricity exporter in the region where power shortage is one of the biggest challenges," reads the EAC 2050 Vision Report.
Juba is mapped within 619,745 square kilometres, making it the second largest country in East Africa after Tanzania which measures 947,303 square kilometres. At the moment efforts have started to include Somalia in the EAC integration. According to the EAC Vision, the Somalia inclusion aims at strengthening infrastructure development, increasing agricultural production and intra-regional trade.
"But, there are more capacity related opportunities... they include enhancement of value addition, which will create more jobs; skills development; trade expansion and market access for manufactured goods and agricultural produce." Even though the EAC seeks to capture more arable land, food production may not come easily due to threats beyond human reach that haunt the region.
Most of Africa, for instance, is suffering from the effects of climate change and environmental degradation, which are ultimately affecting agriculture and perpetuating food insecurity through extended droughts and heavy floods in some parts of the region.
To address the situation the EAC's Deputy Secretary General in charge of Productive and Social Sectors, Mr Christophe Bazivamo said the Secretariat is now working to revive the EAC Climate Unit, which was closed two years ago. The unit was established in 2011 to assist member countries to adapt climate change and mitigate its effects but for some reasons it was closed on January 20, 2016 due to donor pull out.
The European Union Commission, Norwegian government and the United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DfID) were funding the unit. "Donors have agreed to support its operations and we expect it will be back in action soon," Mr Bazivamo revealed at the EAC Investors' Roundtable Meeting on environment and natural resources management over the weekend.
The EAC Secretariat in collaboration with the Lake Victoria Basin Commission (LVBC) and United States Agency for International Development (USAID), hosted the regional learning event and investors forum and donor roundtable on environment and natural resources management under the theme:
Building Resilience in East Africa: Bridging the Gaps in Policy and Practice