he East African Community (EAC) has tabled 2023/2024 budget estimates to the regional legislative Assembly for approval disclosing that during the previous financial year (FY), 23 out of 32 Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) were resolved.
In 2023/202and, Customs will, among other things, focus on the consolidation and updating of the regulatory framework for the Single Customs Territory to ensure the sustainability of the gains made so far; integrating the Electronic Cargo Tracking Systems along the Transit Corridors, and; enhancement of interconnectivity of systems in key sectors to facilitate information exchange, the Chairperson of the Council of Ministers and Burundi’s Minister for EAC Affairs, Youth, Sports and Culture, Hon. Amb. Dr. Ezéchiel Nibigira told the assembly.
The Minister tabled the budget estimates for the 2023/2024 FY totaling US$103,842,880. This year’s budget is an increase from the US$91,579,215 approved by the August House for the 2022/2023 Financial Year.
Despite the prevailing challenges of Ukraine Russia war and Covid-19 economic growth in the region improved to 4.8 percent in 2022 from 3.5 percent in 2021 due to growth in the industry, services, construction, mining, and manufacturing sectors, said Dr. Nibigira.
“Global economic growth is expected to remain weak, mainly due to anti-inflationary measures and geopolitical risks,” added the Minister.
Hon. Nibigira disclosed that the EAC total trade increased by 13.4 percent to US$74.03 billion in 2022 from US$65.268 billion in 2021.
“In 2022, EAC total exports to the rest of the world were valued at US$20.139 billion, while total imports from the rest of the world into the EAC amounted to US$53.891 billion. Further, total intra-EAC trade grew by 11.2 percent to US$10.910 billion in 2022 from US$9.810 billion in 2021,” said the Minister.
“The major Intra-EAC traded products are cereals, cement, iron and steel, live animals, petroleum products, sugar, foods, and beverages, which signify that our economies are agro-based with good signs of moving to industry-based.”
The 2023/2024 Budget is themed “Accelerating Economic Recovery, Climate Change Mitigation and Enhancing Productive Sectors for Improved Livelihoods.”
The community with this FY focus on nine (9) priority areas, namely: strengthening of regional governance processes, and domestication of regional and international commitments for sustainable peace and stability; increasing sensitization, visibility, knowledge, awareness, and participation of the private sector, citizens and other stakeholders in the EAC integration process, and; harmonization of trade-related policies, laws and regulations, and streamlining of customs and trade facilitation systems for increased trade and investment.
Other priority areas are the harmonization of fiscal and monetary policies and establishment of requisite institutions towards the realization of the East African Monetary Union, and leveraging modern technologies to enhance productivity, value addition, and to promote regional supply and value chains and digital platforms.
Also under focus will be the: enhancement of the regional productive capacity and increase in value addition to improve the economic welfare of East Africans; strengthening of the social sectors to improve the social welfare of East Africans; improvement and expansion of quality multi-modal and multi-sectoral infrastructure to support the free cross-border movement and strengthening of the capacity of all EAC Organs and Institutions to effectively discharge their mandate.
On the EAC Single Customs Territory, the Minister said that enhancement and interconnectivity of Customs Systems are at the forefront to facilitate the seamless exchange of trade information and faster clearance of goods across borders.
“All processes relating to the accreditation of the Regional Authorized Economic Operator Programme, and the issuance of the EAC electronic certificate of origin have been automated.”
On the establishment of institutions to support the East African Monetary Union, Dr. Nibigira said that the Council of Ministers had approved the organizational structure for the East African Monetary Institute (EAMI) and initiated the administrative process for identifying the host Partner State for the EAMI, adding that the institution is expected to carry out the preparatory work for the creation of the EAMU.
On the establishment of payment and settlement systems in the region, the Minister said that the EAC Secretariat continues to support the Partner States’ Central Banks in implementing a secure, efficient, and reliable payment and settlement system to ensure an efficient flow of transactions within the region through the EAC Payment and Settlement System Integration Project (EAC-PSSIP).
With regard to conducting national consultations for the drafting of the Constitution of the EAC Political Confederation, Hon. Nibigira said that the consultations in Kenya were held in May 2023.
On the East African Court of Justice, the Minister disclosed that the Court had seen an increase in the number of matters filed before it, as a result of its enhanced visibility and the rising confidence among East Africans in its operations.
“During the FY 2022/2023, 105 matters were filed before the Court compared to the 77 matters filed in the FY 2021/2022.”
The Minister said that the Court’s priority interventions in the FY 2023/2024 will be to increase the number of days for its sittings, conclude more cases in a timely manner, enhance the skills of Judges and staff for efficient delivery of justice, conduct sensitization and awareness programs in the Partner States, and enhance collaboration with other regional and international Courts.
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