•Key to the achievement of a fully integrated EAC region is the free movement of people within the region
•It is similarly expected that existing non-tariff barriers will be conclusively addressed in the ongoing integration efforts.
Efforts geared towards the integration of the East African Community (EAC) region are gaining traction despite historical headwinds.
Political squabbles that threatened the prospects of the integration efforts may be all but behind us following Tanzania’s recommitment to the initiative. Following strenuous trade relationships between EAC partner states, evidenced by the introduction of increasingly protectionist trade policies by governments within the region, signs of positive movement towards a more cohesive trade block are welcome.
Increased cooperation between the member states’ governments on regional infrastructure developments promises that the dreams of a fully integrated region are achievable. The Kenya – Tanzania Natural Gas Pipeline project, the rehabilitation of the Kenya – Uganda railway and positive progress with respect to the Tanzania – Uganda oil pipeline all stand to boost regional integration efforts in the long run.
As discussed previously on this column, a number of challenges have through the years presented themselves as curtailing EAC from achieving her trade potentials. These include misguided protectionist domestic trade policies that seek to protect domestic industries from perceived competitive threats, tariff and non-tariff barriers and increased threats of double taxation.
The above considered, a raft of policy measures have been considered and implemented with a view to revitalise intra-EAC trade. These include a focus on the improvement and modernisation of infrastructure linkages, the removal of non-tariff barriers and the prevention of double taxation.
Key to the achievement of a fully integrated EAC region is the free movement of people within the region. This will not only enable skills transfer within the region, together with industrial efficiencies and technical know-how, but also cement intra-EAC collaboration into the core of the region. This is boosted by the efforts to ensure that robust infrastructure linkages are available to enable the seamless movement of people, goods and services within the region.
It is similarly expected that existing non-tariff barriers (NTBs) will be conclusively addressed in the ongoing integration efforts. The existence of NTBs carry the consequence of curtailing integration efforts by seeking to protect domestic industries from perceived unfair external competitive forces. This is at the expense of regional growth and development, thereby working against the EAC’s commitment to regional integration.
It is positive, however, that the EAC Heads of State have reaffirmed their commitment to an integrated EAC region and directed their respective ministries to spare no expense in ensuring that the integration efforts continue seamlessly. This includes efforts to ensure that effective mechanisms are in place to support the efficient movement of cargo across regional borders, the streamlining of customs border checks and processes and ultimately recognition of our joint commitment to an integrated EAC region.
The renewed commitment to an integrated EAC, with the Tanzanian administration back at the table, will serve to incentivise intra-EAC trade and hopefully cement the EAC region as the fastest growing region within the African continent.
Karen Kandie – MD IDB Capital