East Africa: EAC Charts Strategy On Tackling COVID-19

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A JOINT East African Community (EAC) response against the Covid-19 pandemic is being prepared by regional civil society and private sector organisations, to facilitate life returning back to normal.

Delegates of the apex bodies of the private sector and civil society organisations that met virtually on Friday discussed the agenda for the Regional Dialogue Committee (RDC) meeting that will prepare possible interventions of the RDC to suit the needs of the region and developed a joint work plan for the Incubator for Integration and Development in East Africa (IIDEA).

The IIDEA will stretch from June 2020 to June 2021 and the meeting agreed on a joint statement for the Regional Apex Bodies on Covid-19 impacts and responses in the region.

The half day meeting was attended by representatives of the East African Civil Society Organisations Forum (EACSOF), the East Africa Law Society (EALS), the East African Local Government Association (EALGA) and the East African Health Platform (EAHP).

It came as countries are forging a way forward in post Covid-19, with some, including Tanzania, having opened up their skies and have completed preparations to get back tourism as life has gotten to normal with most empty beds at centres that were meant for patients suffering from Covid-19.

The members discussed a joint Covid-19 response to mitigate the effects that have been caused by the virus, impacting the entire world, in- cluding the EAC region.

Ms Generose Minani, the Principal Gender and Community Development Officer for EAC, commended the apex bodies for the strategic approach they had taken to continue working and complementing government efforts during the Covid-19 crisis and lockdown situation.

She urged them to strategise together on how to push the implementation of the consultative Dialogue Framework (CDF) in the region while scaling up their respective responses to the corona virus crisis in the region.

Ms Minani informed the meeting that the Social Sectors Directorate at the EAC Secretariat had developed a draft response, mitigation and adaptation for children and young people, developed a regional health, nutrition, education and social protection and is forming a regional gender based working group to address the gender-based violence and its related effects on the key groups in the region.

She further urged the apex bodies to embrace virtual meetings to conduct their business while coping with the lockdown and post Covid-19.

Mr Charles Omusana from the Pri- vate Sector and Investment Promotion Department of EAC, noted that the impact of Covid-19 had been felt across all key sectors in the region, such as manufacturing, trade, tourism, transport, agriculture and education and exposed chal- lenges as well as opportunities.

"The use of ICT and digital solutions has become the new norm of doing busi- ness especially for the private sector and small and medium enterprises (SMEs)," said Mr Omusana.

He pointed out that the department had plans to develop an EAC buyers and sellers platform that will promote EAC products to a wider audience, develop an EAC e-business registry that will provide opportunities for information sharing, establish an online registration and harmonise procedures for registration of companies across EAC Partner States and develop an investment guide to share investor information and pro- mote the investment opportunities that the EAC offers.

The Acting EACSO Executive Direc- tor, Ms Martha Makenge, stressed the need for creating public awareness on measures of Covid-19 to the citizens and engaging state agencies on the need to strengthen health systems and capacity to respond to coronavirus.

Ms Makenge urged the EAC partner states to implement a debt moratorium and divert resources meant for debt repayments towards rebuilding the public health system and investing in critical social service sectors.

She emphasized on the need for im- plementing a regional emergency fund towards social relief measures on Co- vid-19 and increase subsidies for small scale farmers to enhance regional food security.

The Cluster Coordinator of GIZ-EAC Programmes, Dr Kirsten Focken, said the IIDEA partners were proactively continuing work, adjusting project initiatives, plans and in addition providing response to mitigate Covid-19.

"We can see that in spite of diffi- culties, regional organisations focus on finding solutions, in particular to secure provision of services and trade in food products and also to use new digital technologies supported by various re- gional EAC-GIZ projects.

The EALGA Acting Secretary Gen- eral, Ms Gertrude Aijuka, stressed the need for increased involvement, support and reinforcement of the Border County and Local Governments on matters of border security, control and management of mobility of people and goods which promotes cross border trade and safety of citizens during this period.

According to Mr David Sigano, the Programme Officer with EALS, the insti- tution had provided support to the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) in the launch of online Court proceedings and virtual training of lawyers intending to appear before the Court and undertake a baseline study on the impact of Covid-19 to cross-border small scale traders across the region.

EAHP Executive Director, Ms Jonniah William, called for a regional ap- proach to health security and promotion by adopting a two pronged approach where common social and scientific information, education and communication will raise public awareness and guide practices.

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