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Tanzania’s Minister for East African Cooperation (EAC) has called for strong bilateral relations among African countries to create a hospitable environment for investment.
Samuel Sitta made his remarks during a talk he gave on regional integration and competitiveness at the recently concluded New York Forum Africa, held in Gabon’s capital, Libreville. The group brings together international investors and African business leaders in an effort to foster partnerships.
Sitta said the improvement in living standards made by the East African Community could serve as an example for other regions of the continent.
Sitta said Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania formed the original EAC, which was enlarged to include Burundi, Rwanda and now South Sudan, which have officially applied to join.
“The lessons in East Africa may not be a hundred percent replicated elsewhere, but there are clearly things that we are doing right. And one of them I mentioned during the plenary [of the forum] was, you must agree to set up institutions,” Sitta said.
“If you have the right kind of institutions, then it is easier to make common policies and agree on those policies. But if you don’t have institutions, you remain each one in their borders and it’s very difficult to move from there.”
The EAC is discussing the creation of a combined free trade zone with two other blocs, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).
“We cannot move anywhere unless we start with regional groupings [which] can come together and form larger economic and …political entities… You have to start with a particular region that is cohesive, sharing the same borders, and then you move on,” he said.
Other issues addressed at the forum included opportunities for businesses in Africa, effective knowledge-sharing and long-term planning among the different regional groupings.
Sitta said, “There is very little that is going on [between African countries]. In Africa, policy makers go to the Europe Union and other places to study integration, but we should visit each other and see what it is that we are doing right in one region, and what more we could improve in another region. Once we have common meetings, we can then evolve policies that produce results and people will react positively,” said Sitta.
He hailed the steps EAC member states have made in working to create a common market allowing citizens to move freely across borders.
Sitta called on the other regional blocs to form a customs union as a building block to a more formal common market.