The East Africa Community now has a permanent place to call home following Wednesday’s opening of its office complex in Arusha, Tanzania.
Presidents Kibaki, Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania and Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi officiated at the colourful ceremony attended by The Aga Khan, who is the founder and chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN).
Rwandan President Paul Kagame was represented by Prime Minister Pierre Habumuremyi, while Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni was represented by his Minister for State for East African Affairs, Mr Shem Bagaine.
“We have opened a project that will serve as a symbol for unity and renewal of the integration process,” President Kibaki said.
The opening of the €18.8 million (Sh2 billion) office complex that is fully funded by the German government was also attended by high-ranking dignitaries, including diplomats, business people and other government officials.
They included Tanzania’s Vice-President Mohammed Ghalib Bilal and Premier Mizengo Pinda.
Hundreds of jubilant nationals of the five EAC member states braved a chilly morning to witness the historic event described by speakers as a turning point in pursuit of a fully integrated region.
As part of the celebrations, EAC secretary-general Ambassador Richard Sezibera signed two bilateral agreements with Germany worth €26 million (Sh286 million) for tax administration and investment promotion reforms and another one with United States Agency for International Development (USaid) for digitisation of data exchange among the different revenue authorities.
The Director for Africa in Germany’s Federal Foreign Office Ambassador Egon Kochanke and Dr Ulla Mikota, the Director for Africa in the Federal Ministry for Development Co-operation, represented Germany.
The USaid project could save up to $50 million (Sh4 billion) in costs at border posts. Last July, The Aga Khan signed a pivotal agreement with the EAC to strengthen and broaden cooperation in economic, social and cultural areas. (READ: EAC, Aga Khan team up to boost regional growth)
The agreement also stipulates that the AKDN and the EAC will work jointly, together with the government of Tanzania, to turn Arusha to a trade hub for the region.
On Tuesday, Tanzania’s President Jakaya Kikwete urged the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) to pass laws that speed up the regional integration process.