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Kenya seeks approval of EAC protocol

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 19- Kenya has taken the first step towards ratifying the implementation of the Protocol which will enable citizens from the East African Community (EAC) partner states to enjoy the benefits of a common market.

EAC Minister Jeffa Kingi said on Tuesday that together with colleagues from the line ministries, he had drafted a memorandum which should be adopted by the Cabinet before the protocol, which allows for the free movement of goods, persons, labour, services and capital, is ratified.

“We have prepared a joint Cabinet memorandum sponsored by myself, Attorney General, Ministers of Finance, Foreign Affairs and Trade which aims to seek Cabinet approval to ratify the Protocol,” he told reporters.

Signed in Arusha, Tanzania in November last year by the five Heads of States of the EAC partner States, the protocol is only expected to be effective on July 1, 2010 when the members ratify it.

The enforcement of the protocol will come hot on heels of the commencement of the fully fledged EAC Customs Union which has seen goods originating within the region attract zero tariff beginning January 1 this year.

Fears that the elimination of internal tariffs would lead to revenue losses have over the years been countered by increased trade among the partner States. Kenya’s total exports to her four neighbours have for instance grown from Sh64 billion in 2004 to Sh84 billion in 2008 and so have the imports from the member States to Kenya.

Uganda and Tanzania have continued to be Kenya’s major export markets accounting for 50 percent and 11 percent respectively.

At a press briefing, the minister disclosed that they were soon going to engage a team of experts who would be expected to advice the member States on how they can among other things harmonise the laws and ensure a smooth execution of the protocol in July.

The team will be tasked with the responsibility of critically analysing the protocol and point out areas that need to be reviewed in line with the protocol.

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“We are in the process of constituting a committee of experts that is expected to identify which laws are supposed to be amended, which laws are supposed to be put in place and then advice us so that the State Law office can immediately swing into action,” stated the minister.

The experts, he added would be drawn from various line ministries as well as the Kenya Law Reform Commission.

Upon its implementation, the integration process is expected to present the 131 million East African population with the opportunities to do business and improve their livelihoods.

There are fears though that many people are not aware of the benefits they stand to accrue when the Common Market Protocol comes into force in the next few months.

To address this challenge, Mr Kingi therefore said the region plans to roll out a campaign to sensitise East Africans on the opportunities that the region portends.

“The (EAC) Secretariat has convened the 12th Sectoral Council meeting of Ministers of EAC Affairs in Arusha on January 22 to develop a comprehensive sensitisation program for the community,” he disclosed.

At the local level, the minister said that his ministry had put in place a communications policy and strategy that would guide them in the awareness drive which set to kick off this month.

“We will shortly advertise for expression of interest for competent Public Relations firms to assist us in this important assignment,” he said adding that they would seek other partners such as the media to work within the program.

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