Interview : Libérat Mfumukeko

Where are infrastructure developments most needed to foster regional industrialisation?

LIBÉRAT MFUMUKEKO: While some progress has been achieved in the promotion and maintenance of industrial development in the EAC, there are challenges that still must be overcome, especially in terms of energy supply and transportation. The region possesses natural resources that remain inaccessible, owing to shortcomings in terms of means. We can provide incentives to domestic and foreign investors to enter into public-private partnerships, with the intention to develop the infrastructure needed to catalyse industrialisation, particularly sector clusters, industrial parks and special economic zones.

What are the effects of technological innovation on the region’s various development plans?

MFUMUKEKO: Recognising the importance of science, technology and innovation (STI) to socio-economic stability, and acknowledging the mutual commitments to cooperation in these fields laid down in the EAC’s founding treaty, the partner states established in 2015 the East African Science and Technology Commission (EASTECO), which takes as its mandate the development, management and application of STI. Relevant regional programmes initiated by EASTECO include the following: regional STI policy formulation; the East African Journal of STI; regional research collaboration, which funds grants and a network for region-wide commercialisation and STI transfer; the EAC Youth Innovation Forum; and the regional programme for technology development and innovation in e-health.

What role can the EAC play in promoting and maintaining regional security and stability?

MFUMUKEKO: The EAC has taken elaborate measures to deepen peace and stability within and among neighbours. Within the region the EAC uses the protocol on good governance to promote democratic legitimacy, the rule of law, access to justice, human rights, transparency and accountability, while the protocol on foreign policy coordination aligns our priorities on external politics. A third protocol on peace and security outlines members’ shared goals on reducing criminality, promoting dialogue and securing the EAC’s borders. Furthermore, it implements measures to combat the proliferation of illicit small arms and light weapons, enable counter-terrorism, thwart cross-border criminal action, and prevent and resolve civil conflict. Lastly, in terms of external security, we work to enhance the interoperability of the EAC’s defence forces to resist foreign aggression and support the efforts of our civil authorities.

How is the Single Customs Territory (SCT) expected to affect Kenyan industry?

MFUMUKEKO: The SCT is a trade facilitation framework aimed at fast-tracking input delivery into major production centres to deliver supplies to manufacturers in a timely manner. The SCT likewise increases the reach of Kenyan exports and enables their competitive advantage by easing the shipment of goods to partner states, especially by reducing the lengthy bureaucratic processes of import declaration.

How can the EAC help to reduce Kenyan poverty?

MFUMUKEKO: EAC integration is organised around four pillars intended to encourage regional prosperity: a Customs union, a common market, a monetary union and, ultimately, a political federation. The intent is to fold the partner states’ markets together and produce economies of scale, permit firms to access that larger market and, with greater sales, boost productivity and incomes. The ambition under EAC Vision 2050 is to create a firm foundation for transformation into a lower-middle-income region by 2021 and a high-middle-income region by 2050.