Arusha. With huge budget deficits due to declining support from the development partners, the East African Community (EAC) needs an estimated $1.28 billion to implement its fifth development strategy.
That translates to an annual budget of $258 million while the annual funding available to the regional organization is about $130m which depicts a huge deficit.
“There has been major shortfalls in financial resources for the past strategies. In fact, the fourth plan was overloaded due to shortage of funds”, said the secretary general Liberat Mfumukeko.
He reiterated that agriculture and job creation would receive priority in the 2016/2017 to 2020/2021 development plan being the source of livelihood for the majority of people in the region. “Massive investment in the agricultural sector will not only create employment for the youth but tackle the problem of insecurity in the region”, he said.
The plan would also focus on revitalizing industrialization in East Africa by encouraging the practice of making the right choices in technology and nurturing the culture of innovations.
However, Mr Mfumukeko noted during the start of the first EAC Development Partners Consultative Forum that resource constraints was likely to hamper smooth implementation of the grand plan.
“Development partners’s contribution to the EAC budget started decreasing in 2015/2016 and significantly went down in 2016/2017”, he told the meeting at the EAC headquarters.
Other challenges, according to him, were lack of information on resource mobilization flows with the Community and inadequate interactions with development partners.
The EAC boss reiterated that since the regional body still has a “big funding gap”, the development partners still has a crucial role in supporting the development plan in hand and other projects.
The overall goal of the EAC fifth development plan is to build a firm foundation for transforming the bloc into a stable, competitive and sustainable lower-middle income region by 2012.
In order to achieve its objectives, seven key priority areas have been identified. These include the consolidation of the Single Customs Territory (SCT) to cover all imports and intra-EAC traded goods.
In his remarks, Danish Ambassador to Tanzania and the EAC Mr Einar Jensen said that Partner States would eventually take full control of funding the Community and urged them to remit their contributions to the EAC in time.
Jensen, who is also the Chair of the Partnership Fund, observed that funding levels to the EAC had been on the decline over the years, adding that this was not healthy for the Community’s financial situation.
“There is need for immediate intervention to address this situation. “The Development Partners remain optimistic that together with steady, persistent effort, with strong principled commitments and hope, we will resist the challenges and emerge as stronger and truly collaborative partners,” he said.
He added that misalignment between the EAC Medium Term Expenditure Framework and activities/projects approved by the donors have increasingly posed challenges in implementation of annual work plans, including notorious delays in approving the annual plans,” he said.
“This has at times led to poor performance and a series of negative impacts”:, Jensen pointed out.