Tanzania's President Dr John Pombe Magufuli on Tuesday emphasised the need and urgency for the East African Community to work harder, in unity, to fast-track the development of the six-member bloc.
Magufuli was addressing a special sitting of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) in the Tanzanian capital, Dodoma.
Speaking in Kiswahili, he urged the Assembly to strive to remove "as early as possible" barriers to trade, movement of people, and others afflicting the region.
He said: "Our sole responsibility is to bring development to the people we lead. It is important we understand that the East African Community is for the citizens and not the leaders".
Industry, transport and energy sectors
The Tanzanian President put emphasis on lawmakers attaching importance to the sectors of industry, transport and energy, among others, as key drivers of the bloc's development.
Asking them what would be the use of having abundant resources such as minerals, and others, that do not really benefit EAC citizens, Magufuli told regional lawmakers that the lack of an enhanced industry sector costs the region a lot.
By exporting raw materials, he said, the region is only enriching others while it's poor get poorer, a situation that no rational leader in the region should tolerate and urged EALA members to leave no stone unturned in their quest to protect and advance the region's industrial sector.
"If we don't protect our own industries we shall just remain escorts. A market of 170 million is a big market. If we have lots of livestock why should we buy shoes from abroad? Why should we buy clothes from abroad yet we have abundant cotton"?
Among others, he also wondered why EAC countries should stand the humiliation of buying fish from abroad despite its very long fish-rich coastline and lakes.
Magufuli told lawmakers that he totally understood that in efforts geared at establishing mechanisms to ensure a win-win situation for the region, they meet challenges but encouraged them to move on with determination, nonetheless.
Another critical area the Tanzania leader emphasised was the region's transport and energy sector, key engines for growth that he said lawmakers must not forget in their work.
He stressed that time has come for the EAC to "think big and beyond parochial issues" and urged EALA to take a central role in ensuring full integration and development of the bloc is realized.
Magufuli said the region is resource-rich but that the citizens were yet to benefit from the same and called for removal of barriers, injustices, imminent suspicions and fears of the region.
"We are totally and fully behind the EAC integration process and we shall fast-track decisions we take for the benefit of the region," Magufuli assured the House reiterating his country's commitment to the bloc's integration agenda.
Meanwhile, he also said the region should resolve the conflicts stalling the integration agenda and implored EALA to contribute to solutions.
"I urge you to critically look into the existing challenges and address them."
Magufuli was impressed by the progress being made in the House regarding steps taken to fast track attainment of the delayed third pillar of integration - the East African Community Monetary Union (EAMU). The Council of Ministers last week tabled the draft law for the establishment of the East African Monetary Institute, which will in turn lay the ground work for the Monetary Union.
EALA Speaker Martin Ngoga, among others, used the opportunity to congratulate Magufuli for steering his country to greater heights through entrenching a sense of responsibility and accountability in public service and the citizenry at large.
"Your efforts are not just a Tanzanian affair, good governance is the heartbeat of our integration process and your success will be ours too," Ngoga said.