NAIROBI, July 2- The East African Community (EAC) member states will soon have a regional Master Plan on how to address the region’s infrastructural challenges, officials have said.
East African Community Minister Amason Kingi told reporters on Wednesday that the five member states had, in the EAC budget, provided the consultancy funds needed to develop the plan that would cover rail, road, energy and ICT networks.
He hoped that it would be ready before the end of this financial year.
The railway Master Plan draft would be ready in two weeks.
While briefing the media about the recently concluded 9th Summit of the EAC in Kigali, the minister revealed that Rwanda and Burundi requested for more time to implement the requirements of the Customs Union (CU) Protocol.
"We need to help the two countries build their institutional capacity to ensure that they can appreciate the kinds of tariffs that we have in EAC," he added.
In the case of Burundi, he said the EAC would move to ensure political stability in the country before they can decide on how to harmonize the systems with those of Burundi.
During the summit, the Council of Ministers released the Annual Report which covered the implementation of programs of the EAC progress report covering the period between July 2007 and June 2008.
Significant progress, the report revealed, had been made especially in the Common External Tariff (CET).
Currently, goods imported from Uganda and Tanzania attract zero duty when exported to Kenya but goods exported from Kenya into these two countries attract duty, a declining rate, as per tariff reduction program of the EAC.
These tariffs have been coming down from 25 percent in the case of Tanzania in 2005 to the current level of 15 percent in 2007.
"The Customs Union and other policies have led to increase in trade beyond what the region anticipated a decade ago," Kingi noted.
For example, the volume of intra-EAC trade has increased by 100 percent from $1.3 billion in 2003 to $2.2 billion in 2007.
"It can be argued that the tariff reduction program is on course and all energies should be focused to achieve zero-tariff by the set deadline of 2010," Kingi affirmed.
At the same time, EAC Permanent Secretary David Nalo downplayed the problems being experienced by regional manufacturers as they seek to acquire the standard quality mark on products destined for the EAC market.
Describing them as just "teething problems", Nalo said the Implementation Committee with members drawn from the five countries was meeting to discuss way s to carry out the exercise.
The EAC Standard Quality Mark Act was passed by the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) and was to take effect on January 1st 2008 but the full enforcement has not taken place.
The period to comply has been extended by three months.
The mark is expected to assist the member states in the fight against counterfeits and piracy.