Kenyan President and current Chair of the EAC Heads of State Summit H.E. Mwai Kibaki

East African Community Secretariat, Arusha, Tanzania, 31 January 2012: Kenyan President and current Chair of the EAC Heads of State Summit H.E. Mwai Kibaki has said the EAC is fully committed to the establishment of the Grand Continental Free Trade Area having experienced the benefits of regional integration.

The President, who was contributing during discussions on the theme of the 18th African Union Summit, Boosting Intra-African Trade at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, noted that the current level of trade within Africa remains too low compared to other regions and therefore it was imperative to review the achievements so far made and chart the way forward for increased trade.

The President asserted that increasing intra-regional trade requires bolstering cooperation between governments and opening up borders to let the people move and trade freely.

“We must also invest in infrastructure, the development of human capital, embark on rapid industrialization and create enabling domestic economic policies” noted the President. He said these efforts will create employment, increase trade and multiply Africa’s wealth and prosperity.

The Chairperson of the Summit disclosed that negotiations towards a COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite agreement had commenced and were scheduled to be completed within two years and that the three RECs involved were committed to meet the deadline.

He said that the experience within the EAC and COMESA shows that opening up countries to intra-regional trade does not translate into loss of revenue.

“Indeed, studies show that a good number of countries accrue increased government revenue as a result of regional trade”.

The Kenyan President affirmed that Africa and her people stand to benefit greatly from intra-African trade and that in view of the demands for growth in all African countries, efforts to increase intra-regional trade should be guided by political commitment accompanied by measurable, time-bound targets.

“We have paved the way for free trade in East Africa and our people have started to enjoy the benefits of integration. It is my hope that the EAC experience can be replicated in other regions of the continent,” President Kibaki reiterated.

The Summit, which opened with the selection of Benin’s President Thomas Boni Yayi as AU chairman, was attended by over 40 Heads of State and Government.  The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, the Secretary General of the East African Community Amb. Dr. Richard Sezibera, and Chinese government representatives attended the Summit.

China was the honored guest at the Summit, and the opening session was filled with expressions of gratitude for Beijing’s gift of a new $200-million AU headquarters that was officially launched on Sunday 29 January 2012.

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