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19.04.2012 Africa


By East African Community (EAC)
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ARUSHA, Tanzania, April 19, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- The Secretary General of the East African Community Amb. Dr. Richard Sezibera today launched the Institute for Regional Integration and Development (IRID) at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA) in Nairobi, Kenya.

Addressing members of the IRID Advisory Board, Members of both the East African Legislative Assembly and National Assembly of Kenya, Vice Chancellor, Deputy Vice Chancellors, Deans, Directors and Professors from CUEA and other Universities, CUEA Students and Staff, the Secretary General commended CUEA for rising to the challenge of meeting the capacity needs of East African regional integration.

Amb. Sezibera noted that for a long time the region lacked structured and relevant training programmes on regional integration that responds appropriately to EAC's dynamic environment and therefore hailed the role IRID will now play in filling that gap.

The Secretary General noted that the IRID programme will be able to bring together other students from Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda in unprecedented numbers to the institution and hence increase the level of cultural interaction while shaping a common vision for the region that will build mutual trust and understanding among the Partner States.

Amb. Sezibera reiterated that the African Union (AU) recognizes education as the chief means of attaining the vision of an integrated, peaceful and prosperous Africa based on the understanding that education plays a crucial role in reducing poverty and inequality and strengthening democracy.

Amb. Sezibera regretted that most universities in the region were not doing enough to foster cutting-edge research, curb brain drain, replace run-down research infrastructure, raise salaries and provide education and training to meet immediate local needs.

He called upon universities in the region to evaluate their current academic performance and develop strategic plans that could help strengthen and sustain progress.

“We need to emphasize on peer reviews and monitor the quality of staff engaged in all teaching and training programmes as well as research,” noted Amb. Sezibera.

The Secretary General disclosed that the Inter University Council (IUCEA), an autonomous institutions of the EAC set up to harmonize higher education standards, was expected to take the centre stage in transforming East Africa into a Single Higher Education Area by 2015. He said IUCEA was systematically developing strategies that will lead to the realization of the transformation through the involvement of higher education institutions and other stakeholders in the region.

Such strategies will include promoting and supporting dialogue and strategic thinking with stakeholder institutions and the general public, aimed at identifying areas in higher education curricula and relevant research that will support human resources capacity building for East Africa's sustainable socio-economic development and to promote the region's global competitiveness.

He said the interventions will aim at promoting and expanding higher education equity and access opportunities, so as to attain a critical mass of graduates required to sustain socio-economic development in the region, and to satisfy current and future human resources needs, particularly for the emerging socio-economic opportunities.

Earlier, the former Attorney General of Kenya and board Member of IRID Hon. Amos Wako informed the gathering that regional integration and development was the in-thing today and it was the only way to go in order for the region to survive in a globalized world. Hon. Wako said several EAC protocols were being signed and more were still coming up which require adequate knowledge and well researched information to guide negotiations.

He said regional integration was a complex process and to navigate the process, it requires expertise for policy formulation and analysis; managing the process; negotiating protocols and other regulations; understanding the process; participating in the process as well as exploiting opportunities. He therefore applauded IRID for the innovation and hoped that it (IRID) will play a critical role of producing young professionals and experts in regional integration.

The Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic Affairs) Prof. Justus Mbae informed the guests that IRID was the region's and the continent's pioneer specialist post-graduate university institute for research and training in regional integration. He said IRID was set up not only to offer training but also to carry out research so that those who have been trained can make evidence-based decisions. The institute also intends to help shape decisions and public discourse with regards to regional integration.

The CUEA Vice Chancellor Prof. Fr. Juvenalis Baitu noted that the role of any modern university was to carry out research, teach and render community service. He said within the region there was no university that was offering comprehensive training in regional integration.

“Whereas a number of institutions train on aspects of regional integration, not a single institution exists to offer comprehensive inter-disciplinary training in regional integration; there is no institution in East Africa that comprehensively meets the needs of the region,” observed Prof. Fr. Baitu.

Hon. Gervase Akhaabi, Member of the East African Legislative Assembly reiterated that regional integration brings more benefits to citizens rather than challenges and that it gives a sense of security. He affirmed the Assembly's readiness and willingness to partner with IRID to promote regional integration and development process in EAC and the whole of Africa in order to free the region and the continent from the shackles of poverty.

The Director of Economic Policy Coordination in the office of the Prime Minister Dr. Christopher Kiptoo disclosed that the Kenyan government was preparing a regional integration policy and strategy document to guide and strengthen further the country's involvement in regional integration. He noted that IRID will empower government officials with the necessary negotiations and communication skills. Dr. Kiptoo pledged government support to the IRID and CUEA.

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