What you need to know about incoming EAC boss Peter Mathuki, his experience and agenda

By , K24 Digital
On Tue, 23 Mar, 2021 13:50 | 4 mins read
Incoming East African Community Secretary-General, Dr. Peter Mathuki. He holds a Ph.D. in Strategic Management and Regional Integration from the University of Nairobi. PHOTO | FILE
According to the AfDB East Africa Economic Outlook 2020, the East Africa region is projected to recover to 3.7 percent in the baseline scenario.

After close to four successful years at the helm of East Africa Business Council (EABC), Dr. Peter Mutuku Mathuki will be joining the East African Community (EAC) as the new Secretary-General next month.

Top on his mind is rejuvenating the image of the Community and preparing it for emerging global opportunities such as the African Continental Trade Area (AfCFTA) and access to the European Union (EU), United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (US) markets and balancing the role of the Asian tigers such as China and India in the development agenda of the region.

Dr. Mathuki, who previously served as a Member of Parliament in the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) between 2012 and 2017 and served in committees of Trade, Accounts and Legal Affairs, will be replacing the outgoing Sec-Gen Amb. Libérat Mfumukeko.

A champion of increased trade in the EAC region and AfCFTA, Dr. Mathuki was nominated by President Uhuru Kenyatta and appointed by the EAC Heads of State Summit comprising all the six Presidents to take up the responsibility of steering EAC for the next five years at a time the region needs strategic direction on navigating Covid-19 impact on the economies.

"EAC organs should work in harmony and coordinate to realize the benefits enshrined in the EAC Treaty and strengthen our economic, legislative, education, research, social and justice agenda," said Dr. Mathuki.

He added: "Partner States' governments and the private sector need to work together to recover from the negative impacts of the pandemic. That's an immediate need, the recovery of the region's economy post-Covid-19. We need to urgently rediscover ways of repositioning our regional economies to remain relevant and active in the global scene in the wake of Covid-19. Deliberately we can utilize digitization, E-commerce, revising legal frameworks that support ease of doing business in order to access our regional and global markets."

Common Market Protocol

Between 2004 and 2010, the incoming EAC Sec-Gen was instrumental in the negotiation of the EAC Common Market Protocol which advocates for free movement of goods, persons, workers, and capital in the region. He was involved in creating regional platforms that supported the negotiation of the Common Market.

Borrowing from his advocacy role steering the growth of the regional private sector, the Community can entrust having a solid Board in driving the implementation of the Common Market Protocol.

As the EABC Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer since 2018, Dr. Mathuki has been involved in resolving trade disputes between EAC countries on behalf of the region's apex private sector alliance. He encouraged bilateral meetings to resolve most of the trade disputes.

He was appointed to the EABC top position a year after vying in the 2017 General Election where he ran as the Deputy Governor candidate for the Machakos County seat on a Wiper Party ticket to serve under Wavinya Ndeti.

Strengthening ties

With a Doctorate from the University of Nairobi in Strategic Management and Regional Integration, Dr. Mathuki is poised to put at the top of his leadership, an agenda that strengthens ties among the six partner states and promote complementarity as opposed to completion amongst the EAC partner states

EAC is a regional intergovernmental organization of six independent states, namely: Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda and Dr.Mathuki is keen to see the inclusion of DRC, Somalia and Ethiopia in the bloc.

It is a powerful bloc with a population of over 200 million people and with a landmass of 2.5 million square kilometres and a combined GDP of US$193 billion, according to EAC 2019 statistics.

At the EABC where he is exiting after a successful four-year stint, Dr Mathuki cited as part of his achievements the resolving of non-tariff barriers (NTBs) to ensure seamless flow of goods across EAC borders through the high-level Public-Private dialogue initiative.

Open Skies Policy

When Covid-19 hit cross-border trade in 2020 leading to long lines of trucks on busy border posts in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, Dr. Mathuki worked tirelessly behind the scenes, alongside other stakeholders, to champion for speedy harmonisation of regulations to ensure the safety of populations and resumption of regional trade and safety of our border points.

Among his other achievements at the EABC have been the advocacy of open skies policy to extend freedoms to airline operators in the EAC and championing of the establishment of trade-related EAC dispute settlement mechanism.

"Open Skies policy within the EAC will ease movement of services and goods and result to increased intra-EAC trade.Landing rates need to revised downwards to make the movement cheaper and competitive “Dr. Mathuki said., adding, “The regional airlines need to harmonize their marketing strategies and work towards borderless East Africa.”

International experience

Besides his experience working with the region's apex private sector lobby, Dr. Mathuki also worked at the International Labour (ILO) at the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions and the Africa-European Union (EU) cooperation programs.

At the ILO-EU program, Dr. Mathuki was tasked with building capacity on negotiation and labour standards for several African states, including Eritrea, Ethiopia, EAC, Southern Africa Development Community and Economic Community of West African States countries.

Dr Mathuki's career began at Comcraft group of companies owned by Dr. Manu Chandaria, one of Kenya's top manufacturers, as an HR and Administration Management expert.

Consummate diplomat

Heralded as an injection of fresh blood in the EAC leadership, some of the challenges Dr. Mathuki -- a consummate diplomat with an astute understanding of the delicate geopolitics and the regional private sector -- faces will be mending political mistrust and raising more funds for the secretariat for the optimal functioning of key organs, including the EALA and the East African Court of Justice.

Most importantly will be bringing together the proper functioning and cooperation of all the EAC organs and institutions.

Dr. Mathuki's penchant for a results-oriented approach will help rebuild the lost image of the community by all the stakeholders, particularly the development partners.