The Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Matia Kasaija, has said that regional integration is no longer a matter of choice or debate but rather a key focal point to drive growth and development.
Kasaija made the remarks while speaking to East African accountants gathered at Hotel Africana for the 3rd East African Congress of Accountants (EACOA) organised by the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Uganda (ICPAU).
He thanked the EACOA 2021 organisers for thinking of a timely theme for the congress: “Integration is both timely and relevant to our economies today.”
Kasaija noted that recent research shows the need to improve inter African trade amongst African member states, this suggests the need to improve trade between the East African Community member states beyond professional services.
He advised Ugandans and the rest of the East African countries to embrace with two hands, the regional integration and work towards its success as the way to tap into the wider market for the goods and services produced.
“We need to improve the trade relations with our neighbours for better trade-offs in the region.When the three EAC countries;Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania were united in the past, with one currency and free movement of goods and services, they grew at a faster rate,”he noted.
Kasaija explained that integration all over the world has been recognised as the biggest driver of economic development.
He explained that Uganda produces more than its citizens can consume, therefore,the need to work closely with the nearest neighbours and take advantage of the cheap and reliable markets they have is paramount.
“Why would Kenya lack sugarcane for their sugar industries when we have excess sugarcane here? Or why would Rwanda lack milk and import it from other countries yet Uganda can supply them at a relatively cheaper price,” he wondered.
He stated that regional integration is important as it provides for collective financing of projects that benefit the entire region, but are too expensive for one country to implement, a case in point, the Standard Gauge Railway project.
He however blamed political leaders in other EAC countries for “protectionism” adding that some leaders in these countries have continued to frustrate free movement of good and people across the EAC.
He implored accountants from across the EAC to interest themselves in advising their respective governments on the benefits of integration.
He also asked them to lead in the fight against corruption.
EACOA is an initiative of the East African Community Institutes of Accountants (EACIAs), namely: Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Uganda (ICPAU), the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya (ICPAK), the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Rwanda (ICPAR), the National Board of Accountants and Auditors of Tanzania (NBAA), and Ordre des Professionnels Comptables du Burundi (OPC)/the Order of Professional Accountants of Burundi.