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Ugandans also grumble over EAC

NAIROBI, September 2 – Uganda has become the latest member of the East African Community (EAC) to express discontent over the trade arrangements that have been entered by the five partner states.

In a draft report contained in the Ugandan’s Sessional Committee on Tourism, Trade and Industry, Ugandan businessmen complained that trade issues that are agreed upon by the member states were not practiced by some member states.

The traders cited the ban on polythene bags below 30 microns in Uganda, which are still being produced in Kenya for export, in the report which was presented to the Ugandan Parliament.

“These bags find their way to Uganda yet our manufacturers have stopped producing them. This is not fair to the Ugandans,” the traders asserted.

Tanzania has time and again been blamed for taking a hard stance on various issues on regional integration.

The businessmen also cited the Non Tariff Barriers (NTB) that still exist between the member states and the many road blocks along the way from Mombasa to Uganda as some of the challenges they face while trading with Kenya.

In the report, they also claimed that the officials, who negotiate on their country’s behalf, endorse deals that only favour Kenyans.

They said that while they were fully supportive of the integration efforts of the East African Community they were of the opinion that it was moving too fast.

“The EAC was supposed to be private sector driven but the reality on the ground is that the business community is being left behind,” they lamented.

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The Committee recommended that their government should boldly negotiate with Kenya to the advantage of the Ugandan business community and also expedite the process of opening up the central sea route into Uganda through Dares salaam.

But in a quick rejoinder, Kenya’s EAC Permanent Secretary David Nalo said although their complaints were justified, the member states were working to address all impediments and ensure harmonisation of all policies.

Nalo told Capital Business that they were working to accelerate the implementation of the Customs Union and Common Market Protocol, from whence the fears of some of the partner states were stemming from.

He allayed fears that the issues raised by some of the partners could delay the implementation of the Common Market launch, which is slated for 2010.

Trade among the original EAC members, he noted had continued to increase.

Uganda’s exports to Kenya for example have grown from $US14 million in 2004 to $US100 million in 2007.

He said although the traders had expressed their concerns, President Yoweri Museveni was fully supportive of the EAC and had even been on record asking for the member states to fast track the regional integration process.

President Museveni has also called for quick elimination of bottlenecks, which hamper business in the region.

He said the high level task force meeting on the Common Market Protocol reached a consensus of the free movement of capital, which compels the member states to liberalise their capital markets.

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Museveni has also expressed optimism that all bottlenecks will be addressed immediately so that the region can embark on the implementation of the EAC Political Federation.

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