The East African Business Council (EABC) has tasked its affiliated federations in the five EAC partner states to petition their Speakers of Parliament over representation in the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA).
According to the EABC Chairman Gerald Ssendaula, chances for the EABC to be represented in the upcoming EALA seem to be fading fast with all seats only going to political parties and special interest groups.
“Although opportunities for us to get there seem to be slim now, we shall continue to pursue our right, by requesting that the EAC treaty be amended to accommodate our demands – businesses need to be represented in EALA,” Ssendaula said yesterday.
However, when contacted, the Chief Executive Officer of the Private
Sector Federation (PSF), Hannington Namara, said that he was not aware of the move. But he said the Federation would happily push for an EALA seat.
“I haven’t received any instructions to that effect, but I would be happy to act
accordingly, because in any case different players need to be
represented in EALA.”
“Representation in EALA is important for us as the
private sector,” said Namara.
Before the elections for new EALA members got underway in member states recently, the EABC began lobbying for a seat in the regional assembly, arguing that without them most decisions would hardly reflect the position and wishes of the East African business community.
Citing some provisions in the Common Market protocol, Ssendaula said on many occasions a stand has been taken without analyzing the strength and weaknesses of the different economies in the region and how best policies can be harmonised.
One of the institution’s objectives is to be an effective change agent for fostering an enabling business environment and to promote private sector’s regional and global competitiveness in trade and investment.
Each of the member states send nine representatives EALA and these are selected from political parties and special interest groups like women, the youth and people with disabilities.
EABC has an observer status at the EAC, but business leaders in region insist that’s not enough.
“Observer status is not enough for a body that is at the heart of the economies of the five countries…… but like you know it is not always easy for politicians to understand this,” the former Ugandan finance minister added.
EABC currently has 54 associations and 102 corporate members.
However, in an interview with The New Times, the EALA Speaker Abdirahin Abdi advised the business council not to advance interests of particular groups in the assembly but face the electorate instead.
“For us we cater for the interests of all East Africans…..and I want to pause a question to them; are they going to also say they want a seat in the EAC Summit and in the EAC Council of Ministers?” the Speaker asked.
Rwanda’s EAC Affairs minister Monique Mukaruliza could not readily be reached for a comment on the matter.
EABC is the apex body of business associations of private sector and corporate bodies from EAC states.
The umbrella was established in 1997 to foster the interests of the Private Sector in the integration process of the Community.
By Gashegu Muramira, Daily Monitor