Integration of East Africa is a serious matter, one of life and death, President Museveni has said.
The President, who was making a brief address at the 17th Extraordinary East African Community (EAC Heads of State summit in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania yesterday (Friday), said East Africa is improving economically and must take advantage of its numbers to develop.
“In 1965 when studying Economics, I was told demand is desire plus ability to pay. If you only have desire but no ability to pay, it is not demand,” he said.
“In Africa we have been having few numbers and inability to pay. In the 1960s, East Africa was 40 million people. But now, it is 165 million people. The numbers have gone up and the pockets are also improving.”
Uganda in 1986, said the President, had each individual on average consume 18 litres of milk while today each Ugandan drinks 60 litres of milk although it falls below the World Health Organisation’s recommended 210 litres per person per year.
“Therefore the resource of 165 million people is an important resource. It means producers but also consumers,” said the President.
The President told the audience that China best exemplified the importance of size of market.
“In 1978 when China opened up, it was behind many African countries in development. At the same time, several African countries opened up too. However, in the period from then till now, China has attracted $2.6 trillion worth of investment while Africa has attracted $650 billion.”
He added, “The difference is that China was one big market while Africa was 53 fragmented markets. Therefore, when we talk of integration, it is a matter of life and death.”
Commenting on the decision by the heads of state to use another three months to study the European Union-EAC Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), President Museveni said he had read all the articles of the compact and urged patience.
“My ministers had prepared a brief but I decided to read all the articles myself. We are talking industrialization but also opening up our markets. Our EU partners should not panic. Don’t stampede. Give us three months. In January we shall give you a collective answer.”
Like host John Pombe Magufuli, President Museveni also urged the EU not t punish Kenya, which was slated to sign the agreement by October 1st but will now have to wait for the collective position of the region.
Kenya was represented at the summit by deputy president William Ruto, who said East Africa has been credited for making biggest steps in matters integration on the continent.
“Last year, we signed the tripartite agreement creating a Free Trade Area for SADC, COMESA and EAC, a total of 650 million people. We need to build and synergise our markets,” said Ruto.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame said there should be ambition about the shared vision for East Africa.
“We should do more and do better. The community makes us stronger than we would be as individuals,” said Kagame.
Burundian President Pierre Nkurunzinza was represented by Ambassador Allan Nyamitwe while South Sudan President Salva Kiir was represented by envoy Aggrey Tisa Saabuni. Zanzibar President Ali Mohammed Shein also attended the summit.