Regional Integration can only become a reality when the citizens are aware, involved and owning the process.
Dr. Kirsten Focken, the Cluster Coordinator of the EAC-GIZ Programme stated that the German support towards enhancing engagement of the privates sector and civil society was premised on the notion above.
EAC-GIZ Programme has supported strengthening the process of an inclusive civil society policy engagement in the EAC through institutionalization of the regional apex body and continued to strengthen the engagement of the regional private sector association (EABC) in the regional policy advocacy processes since 2008.
This support is re-enforced in the Treaty for the Establishment of the EAC 2000 which states that the Secretary General shall provide the forum for consultations between the Private Sector, Civil Society organizations, other interest groups and appropriate institutions of the Community (Article 127 (4)).
Thus, in order to implement the above Treaty provision, the EAC Secretariat, with the support of GIZ, has developed a Consultative Dialogue Framework (CDF) that institutionalized the dialogue between the EAC Secretariat, the private sector the civil society and other interest groups in East Africa.
Under the CDF a joint initiative called the Incubator for Integration and Development in East Africa – IIDEA –
was developed as a tool for engaging citizens of the EAC Partners in the implementation of the EAC Common Market Protocol and to showcase their real integration experiences. Up til today 25 Innovative projects from private sector and civil society have been identified and are undergoing successful implementation
#integrationmadereal. Furthermore, 6 IIDEA Partners have won international, regional and national awards and funding for their project sustainability and scalability.
For six years, the EAC Secretariat and the dialogue parties have implemented the CDF and made substantial achievements in having the recommendations of the stakeholders included into the regional policy, guidelines and laws.
One major achievement since the adoption of the CDF is the annual Secretary General’s Forum where substantial recommendations are made by Civil Society and Private Sector Organizations and Representatives to the EAC Policy making structures. Not only the representatives of the organizations but also the members, the citizens of the EAC are given a voice in this forum.
Despite being one of the fastest growing regional economic blocs in the world and shaping the economic, political, societal and cultural development of East Africa, many challenges still remain including, many citizens are unaware of how the EAC affects their daily lives and the need to make the current annual EAC Secretariat General’s Forum an effective dialogue platform for stakeholders engagement.
The 6th annual SG’s Forum, held in Nairobi, Kenya from the 23rd24th July 2018 under the theme “Strategizing for impact: people-centred and market-driven integration” aims to review the forum and the CDF to agree on the best way forward in strengthening the forum and the sustainability of the CDF.
The Secretary General of the East African Community, Amb. Liberat Mfumukeko highlighted the importance of the SG’s Forum and agrees with the dialogue parties that the issues presented to the forum are cross-cutting and relevant for all stakeholders in the region. He welcomed the recommendation for a dedicated coordinator for the implementation of the CDF to be based in his office upon consultation and approval of the Council of Ministers.
The Ambassador urged the Forum delegates not to make unrealistic recommendations which may not be implemented but focus on making the Forum an effective platform for all the stakeholders. Moreover, he advised to develop a pre-budget conference action plan focusing on long term projects for the CDF to propose at the upcoming extraordinary council of ministers.
Nevertheless should all the stakeholders of the CDF commit their support and resources to the CDF and as a particular activity the SG’s Forum to enhance the reach out to the public – the citizens and the beneficiaries of regional integration.