STRONGER TOGETHER

Tanzania 2015 | DIPLOMACY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Amb. Dr. Richard Sezibera, Secretary-General of the East African Community (EAC), on the importance of Tanzania, milestones of the EAC, and goals for the future.

Amb. Dr. Richard Sezibera
BIOGRAPHY
The Summit of the East African Community (EAC) Heads of State meeting held in Dar es Salaam on April 19, 2011 appointed Amb. Dr. Richard Sezibera as Secretary General of the EAC for a five-year term. Prior to his appointment, he served as Minister of Health of the Republic of Rwanda from October 2008–April 2011. He has served in many capacities in the Rwandan government, including Ambassador to the US, Presidential Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region, and Senior Advisor to the President of Rwanda, where he worked on peace and security, conflict management and resolution, and regional integration issues. Dr. Sezibera has practiced medicine for many years in Uganda and Rwanda. He also holds a Master of Arts degree in Liberal Studies from Georgetown University, and is an author of many journal publications in the field of politics and international affairs.

How would you describe the importance of Tanzania's participation toward the successful integration of the East African Community (EAC)?

Tanzania is a key member of the EAC, as one of the founder nations. It is an important growing economy, especially in the non-oil sector, with growth in tourism, financial services, mining, agriculture, and more recently, gas. In terms of contributions to the EAC, Tanzania has been significant, and will remain so.

How satisfied are you with the current progress of integration within the EAC?

Given that the customs union has only been in place since 2005, witnessing the gains that have been made through what is now a common market, not to mention having established the framework of a political federation, is extremely impressive. Of course, the challenges are immense and further momentum is required.

What are the most pressing challenges for the EAC?

The challenges predominantly lie in infrastructure. We need investments, such as in rail and energy, to further unlock development. We also need to invest in the right skills. Ours is a young, growing, urbanized population; however, we need to ensure that it has the requisite skills to grow the economy of tomorrow. We must also produce more jobs, and finally there are still obstacles to integration. We need to remove non-tariff barriers to trade, such that services and people are able to move seamlessly within the EAC.

As the Secretary General, what milestones would you like to see the EAC reach by YE2015?

In 2015, we will see the single customs territory in full operation. In 2014, it was rolled out on a pilot basis for the northern corridor. Thus far, it has been highly successful for the products involved. We want to strengthen it, and ensure it is fully functional in 2015. We are working on an EAC passport, and hopefully by 2015 the respective heads of state will be in a position to launch it. We are also working on airspace liberalization and deeper fiscal integration.

How would you assess the political will from member states to cooperate on common EAC goals? What would be the economic effect of greater integration among them?

I believe the will is there, as all leaders in East Africa are committed to integration. However, the speed of integration varies from country to country. Integration has already yielded solid benefits. Growth is up across the board, as are revenues. Intra-EAC trade has more than doubled, growing at almost 36% YoY. We are also seeing freer movement of labor, whereby graduates are moving across the entire region, widening their opportunities. Tourism, too, is on the rise, and will grow further in the advent of a single tourism visa. Indeed, this tourism growth is registering even amid concerns over security. Overall, I think this integration has already been greatly beneficial for the average East African. And with deeper integration there can only be greater benefits to reap.