NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 25 – Most Tanzanians are still opposed to the integration of the East African Community (EAC), according to a new survey.
The survey commissioned by the EAC member states shows that Tanzanians are opposed to proposals on access to land, the right of establishment, permanent residency and the use of a common identity card in the region.
East African Minister Amason Kingi said that the same issues had frustrated the signing of the East African Treaty on Common Market Protocol early this year.
“We hoped to have signed the Common Market Protocol in Gondoto during the last summit. However it is true that Tanzania was indeed dissenting and those are the issues that we wanted to take to the Summit,” he stated, further outlining the issues of contention.
“One was the issue of the identity card by East Africans as a primary document to facilitate travel within the region.”
The Minister emphasised the need to deal with non-contentious issues in an effort to fast track regional integration.
“Currently if we have a meeting and one member country decides not to attend then that meeting stops being an official meeting and whatever decision that is passé in that particular meeting is said not to be binding,” Mr Kingi observed.
“That can be misused by members who just want to scuttle the process,” he added.
The EAC Minister also stressed the need for the standardisation of the customs unions of different regional blocks to facilitate large scale integration.
Mr Kingi said that doing this will result in greater progress and development within the countries involved.
“Sometimes last year we had a tripartite summit where COMESA, SADC and EAC came together and the main focus was that we want to make sure that these three regional blocks actually come together and for purposes of having a common ground,” he said.
The Minister further stated that the importance of a tripartite arrangement was a crucial building block towards achieving the African Economic Community as outlined by the Abuja Treaty.
“When we sit together to analyse the Customs Union as launched by COMESA and how SADC intends to move forward, we want to marry those three blocks into a single FTA and move forward,” he said.
The East African Community received a cash boost from a consortium of donors to help speed up the creation of a common market in the region.
The East African Community partnership fund run mainly by countries from Europe, will inject about Sh680 million in the next financial year up from Sh528 million.
The monies will help to fast track the integration of Rwanda and Burundi into the EAC, planned re-branding of the bloc and will further facilitate common market negotiations which have been sluggish due to Tanzania’s opposition to ownership of land and free movement of people, goods and services.
The cash boost comes at a time when member states have fallen behind in remitting their contributions, a move that has made it difficult for the secretariat to discharge its duties including holding of parliamentary sessions.
Negotiations of the parts of the EAC Common Market Protocol are currently underway and its signing is expected in November this year.
Rwanda and Burundi are expected to join the EAC Customs Union early next month.