Kigali, 29 March 2019
I see on your faces anticipation of very serious work ahead. But from experience, let me give you a bit of advice: if you want the best outcomes from the retreat, start by just being relaxed. You can even loosen your neckties and let the tension go away, and your minds should be allowed to wander and look every for the kinds of solutions we are looking to have out of this meeting.
I am glad to have this opportunity, to share a few thoughts on the direction of our Community. I think the Secretary General has done a good job of elaborating most of the issues that lie ahead for your discussions.
Ten years ago, a similar retreat was held here and it resulted in some good solutions that have contributed to furthering our East African agenda.
So let’s maintain that same spirit, of frank, brotherly discussion, aimed at finding the right remedies to the current challenges we face in the East African Community.
First, we urgently need to get our house in order, both in terms of ownership, which includes paying our respective dues, as well as enhancing transparency and accountability in the management of the institution.
This is the only way to maintain integrity internally, as well as credibility with our citizens, and our partner institutions. It will be very difficult to achieve even the more simple goals we have set, if we don’t get this right. I am sure very good progress has been made.
Second, we have to urgently unblock obstacles in ongoing projects, and allow ourselves to finish the good work we have started together.
Many of these require little more than political will. Even small triumphs generate so much goodwill, and increase the trust of our people in the East Africa Community. So why deprive ourselves of success that we need, and that is within our reach?
The Single Customs Territory and EAC Common Higher Education are examples of interventions that directly benefit all our people, and create popular momentum for deeper phases of integration.
Finally, there is nothing wrong with being ambitious. There is so much more to do, but we cannot start to tackle the bigger, more complex processes when we are still struggling with basic issues.
For example, with the African Continental Free Trade Area, our continent is starting to come together in a positive and productive way, that will create unprecedented opportunities for our people.
Earlier this week at the Africa CEO Forum, there was a lot of excitement, and a lot of expectations, from African businesspeople, and others who see the potential in our continent.
We know our region and what needs to be done to be part of this forward movement. So we cannot afford to be left behind, or be the ones to delay the rest of Africa. In fact, the East African Community has what it takes to actually lead this process.
Our goal is to be a dynamic, prosperous, people-centered, private-sector led region. We have to facilitate this by listening to what the business community and ordinary citizens are telling us, and find a way to meet their expectations.
Only by working together will we spur innovation, create employment and generate the wealth needed to transform our East Africa.
Getting these things right, and steering the Community in the right direction is the best gift we can give the citizens of the East African Community.
So Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, I wish you very productive retreat and once again, just feel relaxed to undertake any of the challenging topics you have to discuss here. I wish you all the best and I thank you, for being here in this retreat.