Today, four months after the five East African Countries signed the Common Market protocol in Arusha , Tanzania (29 November 2009) and three months before it comes into force (1st July 2010), the border points are not yet free.
Although the Customs Union protocol was signed in 2005, the events at the border points which include taxation undermine the spirit of the regional bloc and the protocols to be signed –the Monetary Union and the Political Federation.
Speaking to the press in Arusha, Tanzania, EAC deputy Secretary- General Ms Beatrice Kiraso blames the slow integration process on the structural rigidities by various partner States. The EAC Secretariat based in Arusha lacks the teeth to push through the agreements.
If the common market protocol is adopted fully, the region’s business would be opened up to more than 126 million people. However, Tanzania has particularly stood out as the most hesitant to facilitate the integration process.
Kiraso attributes the unease to uneven levels of development and economic inequalities among the five countries with the least resourced opting to take a wait and see attitude.
Kenya’s East African Community Ministry Permanent Secretary, Mr. David Nalo, who was speaking in Nairobi recently during the launch of the Ministry’s Communication Policy and Strategy Handbook, is optimistic of the successful realization of the EAC goals.
Mr. Nalo says that the sticky issues of removing trade barriers are being addressed through a joint initiative of the East African Business Council and EAC Secretariat.
The renewed EAC which was officially launched in 1999 celebrated its 10th anniversary on 29 November 2009 with the signing of the Common Market protocol.
The protocol and subsequently the bloc modelled along the European Union, would help the region to negotiate on economic issues better at the international fora. It will also bequeath to the region more financial muscle.
The former East African Community, which comprised of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, collapsed in 1977 due to several reasons, among them political, economic, ideological and personality differences.
The present integration scheme is an enlarged one. It comprises of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi. Southern Sudan, Somalia and Ethiopia have expressed interest to join the East Africa Federation in future.