Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) mission was in Arusha, Tanzania on Wednesday on a learning mission to the East African Community (EAC).
The ECOWAS mission comprising of officials from departments of Trade, Customs and Infrastructure of the Economic Community had paid a working visit to the EAC Headquarters and held discussions with the Secretary General of the East African Community, Amb Liberat Mfumukeko and other EAC Senior officials.
The purpose of their mission led by Transport Facilitation and Policy Expert, Mr Appiah Christian and TradeMark East Africa led by Director General, David Stanton, was to gain insight on major developments realised as well as challenges experienced within the EAC especially on areas of Trade and Customs, Investment, and infrastructure as well as sharing experience of the same from ECOWAS.
In his welcoming remarks, the EAC Secretary General hailed the good relationship between EAC and ECOWAS as well as the increasing opportunities for inter-regional trade brought about by the establishment of regional economic communities (RECs) in Africa. Amb Mfumukeko, emphasised the increasing collaboration between the EAC and ECOWAS. He said the EAC was keen on what ECOWAS has attained in the area of financial integration and movements of people.
Noting the establishment of a tripartite Free Trade Area (FTA) between the East African Community (EAC), South African Development Community (SADC) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the Secretary General said he looked forward to the FTA linking up with ECOWAS and other RECs to form an African Continental FTA (CFTA).
Accompanying the Secretary General, the EAC Deputy Secretary General in charge of Planning and Infrastructure, Dr Enos Bukuku, briefed the ECOWAS delegation on the major developments taking place in the integration process, notably the operationalisation of the EAC Customs Union especially on the Single Customs Territory and status of implementation of the infrastructure projects going on in the region.
Dr Bukuku informed the delegation that the EAC region was undertaking ambitious regional infrastructure development programme in roads, railways, telecommunications and civil aviation.
He hailed the TradeMark East Africa for their support to some of the projects particularly One Stop Border Post (OSPB) and the Establishment of Single Customs Territory.
The EAC official informed the delegation that EAC is a people-centered community and the involvement of the private sector, women and youth entrepreneurs, as well as ordinary citizens of East Africa in the integration agenda is critical.
On his part, the leader of delegation from ECOWAS, Mr Appiah Christian, thanked his host for the warm reception and hospitality accorded to them and commended the EAC Secretariat for the enormous work done that has led to important milestones in the integration process.
Speaking on the ECOWAS administrative structure, Mr Appiah informed the EAC team that in January 2007, the Secretariat of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) with its headquarters in Abuja was transformed into a Commission headed by a President, assisted by a Vice President and Commissioners.
By becoming a Commission with enhanced powers and Commissioners in charge of smaller and clearly defined sectors, the ECOWAS Secretariat has more impact and become more visible in Member States, asserted Mr Appiah Christian. He elaborated a number of projects and programmes under ECOWAS Vision 2020 which focus on making ECOWAS more closer to the people than ever before.