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East African 2012 monetary union still on target

KAMPALA, Jan 19 – A common currency for the East African Community by 2012 remains a realistic target but several technical hurdles need to be overcome, an EAC official said Tuesday.

"The nations involved are very much committed. That’s why there is a short deadline. You can call it very short," said Alloys Mutabingwa, deputy secretary general of the five-member regional grouping.

"I’m seeing technical issues coming through that require more time and more discussion, but I’m not seeing any of the challenges as becoming insurmountable," he said at a meeting in the Ugandan capital Kampala.

Mutabingwa said it was crucial for EAC members — Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi — to establish a monetary institution that could serve as a precursor to an eventual regional central bank.

This "transitional institution" would be charged with resolving the outstanding technical challenges like converging macroeconomic policy and streamlining inflation levels and exchange rates.

Mutabingwa added the countries must begin sharing sensitive and protected economic data for the project to succeed.

Finance and central bank officials from the five nations are meeting in Kampala this week to review a study on the establishment of a monetary union.

While opening the conference on Monday, Ugandan Finance Minister Syda Bumba said a monetary union would help dissolve the arbitrary political borders drawn in the region during the colonial era.

"It will among other things put an end to the artificial separation of the people of East Africa, many of whom are of common descent and even of the same families," she said.

The EAC member states signed a treaty last November that established a regional common market.

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