SADC SUMMIT 2019: East or South? ‘Inevitable’ dual membership for Dar

Former President Jakaya Kikwete addresses journalists dur-ing a special interview held at his Msasani residence in Dar es Salaam on Friday.PHOTO | FILE

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From historical ties to trade, former President Jakaya Kikwete explains why Tanzania cannot choose but continue to play a central role in both Sadc and the East African Community

Dar es Salaam. There is no conflict of interest in Tanzania’s dual membership to the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) and the East African Community (EAC), former President Jakaya Kikwete has said.

“It’s all about integration and we are set to benefit rather than lose from the two blocs,” the former Tanzanian head of state reiterated on Friday.

In a special interview ahead of the 39th Session of the Sadc Heads of State and Government Summit, Dr Kikwete explained why dual membership was not only inevitable, but also strategic for Tanzania.

He said Tanzania did not join Sadc, but formed the regional bloc together with the frontline states in 1979, at a time the former EAC had collapsed two years earlier.

“We are in both groups also because of history. We cannot not detach ourselves from either bloc given the benefits,” he said at his Msasani office in the commercial capital.

The former president was also quick to point out that that Sadc and EAC were not rivals competing for markets, but partners spearheading the agenda for deeper integration and trade in Africa.

Fruits of that agenda are evidenced in the launching in 2015 of the Sadc-EAC-Comesa Tripartite Free Trade Area initially covering 27 African countries, including the six nation EAC.

The Tripartite, then touted to become the largest trading bloc in Africa with $1 trillion combined GDP, required ratification of a minimum 14 countries to enter into force.

Recently, though, a much bigger bloc African Continent Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) with GDP estimated at $3.4 trillion was launched.

Dr Kikwete said he actively participated in and vouched for Tanzania’s dual membership to Sadc and EAC, and saw nothing wrong with the current scenario.

Turning to Sadc, he called on the member states to ensure the organisation’s Gaberone-based secretariat was not overwhelmed by a host of sectoral projects.

Tanzania will later this week host the 39th edition of Sadc Summit during which President John Magufuli will take over as the organisation’s chair. The last time for the country to host a similar event was in 2003, also in Dar es Salaam, when Dr Kikwete was the Foreign Affairs minister.