President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has reiterated the need for East African Community (EAC) integration, saying it is important for East Africans, especially young people to know why integration is very critical for the region.
“There are three reasons; number one is, do you want prosperity or not? If you say you don’t want prosperity, then there’s no problem, but if you say you want it, the question is, Where will the prosperity come from?” he inquired.
President Museveni made the remarks at the 23rd Ordinary Summit of the EAC Heads of State that took place in Arusha, Tanzania. The summit ran under the theme “Accelerating Economic Recovery through Climate Action and Enhancing Food Security for Improved Livelihoods.”
The President explained that prosperity cannot come from aid from foreigners or government handouts; it comes from a family, company, or individual who produces a good or a service and sells it.
“You produce a good or a service, and somebody buys it. If more people buy from you, then you will become prosperous. Therefore, you cannot talk of prosperity in Africa without talking about market integration,” he said.
“If you want to experiment with that, you should go to Latin America. It is richer than the United States in terms of natural resources; if you look at the rivers—the biggest river in the world—the Amazon is located in South America, and the forests, agricultural land, and minerals are all there in South America, but you see the misery there. So, what is the problem? Part of the problem is organisation. In the US if you are in New York and produce a product, it can be sold all the way to California. They have a market of more than 300 million people,” he noted.
Markets are a stimulus for wealth creation and prosperity, and that is why leaders should advocate for the integration of the East African market.
“A country like Uganda wasted a lot of time in war and so on. When we settled down, we started producing, and very soon we realised that the internal market was not enough for milk, maize, and sugar, among other products.”
President Museveni also outlined strategic security and undugu (brotherhood) as the other reasons why East Africa needs integration.
“The second reason is strategic security. How can you be secure in the world? The third reason is undugu. We are even lucky that we have Swahili as the East African language; we can all speak Swahili. Therefore, it is easy for us to unite. This is why some of us under the leadership of Mwalimu Nyerere, for the last more than 60 years have been struggling for East African integration.”
The President of Burundi, who is also the outgoing chair of the EAC, H.E. Evariste Ndayishimiye, thanked his counterparts for their active participation in the organised meetings during his tenure.
“Without your support, I couldn’t do anything,” he said, before listing some of the milestones the community has achieved during his tenure as the chair of EAC.
“I thank Your Excellencies for entrusting me with the privilege of presiding over the affairs of our community since July 2022. It has been a great honour to steer the most vibrant region.”
The President of South Sudan and also the new chair of EAC, H.E. Salva Kiir Mayardit, said he believes that the candid discussions they held during the summit will have an impact on the affairs of the community.
“South Sudan strongly believes in the ability of the East African Community to address our common challenges. This is one reason why we joined the East African Community in 2016.”
During the summit, Somalia was admitted as the 8th member of the EAC in accordance with Article 3 of the Treaty for the Establishment of the EAC.
The summit was also attended by the President of Tanzania, H.E. Samia Suluhu; the President of Kenya, H.E William Ruto; the President of Somalia, H.E. Hassan Sheikh Mohamud; the Prime Minister of Rwanda, Dr. Edouard Ngirente; the Vice Prime Minister of the DRC and Minister in Charge of Defense, Mr. Jean-Pierre Bemba; and the EAC Secretary General, Hon. Dr. Peter Mathuki, among others.