NAIROBI, Kenya Jun 29 – With two days to the enforcement of the East African Common Market Protocol, expectations are high with the free movement of labour, services, capital and goods.
The commencement of the common market is being hailed as a stepping-stone of transforming the economies of East African Community member states with an expanded market.
However, the misconception amongst most business people and ordinary citizens in the region is that come July 1, trade changes immediately.
The Minister for East African Community Amason Jeffa Kingi now says a common market for the East African Community is likely to take full effect in 2015.
“Many tend to believe that come Thursday, (July 1) the borders will collapse and people will begin traveling freely within the region. That is not the case,” Mr Kingi said.
The Minister stressed that July 1 only marked the official recognition of the operation of the Common Market Protocol adding new deadlines on the eradication of trade barriers have to be agreed on thereafter.
“There is so much that still needs to be done. We need to amend laws that are in breach of the Common Market Protocol as well as look at our own individual legal regimes so that they do not undermine any state,” he said.
Already member states have agreed on an implementation schedule of the Common Market but the business community has on several occasions raised concerns arguing its effects were not being felt on the ground.
Traders in the region say East African member states are still in a system of lop-sidedness with states moving at different speeds creating unlevelled trading ground.
Kenya Association of Manufactures Chairman Vimal Shah has in the past said although most countries are at an advanced stage of passing new laws for the enactment of the Protocol, there is a lot to be done to take care of other laws touching on customs and taxation.
“We are not yet talking as one market and this is making us lose out to other markets,” he said adding that a Customs Union cannot function without the existence of common customs legislation.
Mr Kingi agreed numerous regulatory reforms were yet to be implemented adding it was now up to member states to ensure speedy application of the laws for citizens to enjoy the benefits of a Common Market.
The East African Business Council has already started working on a raft of trade barriers in an effort of hastening full integration.
Regional local government agencies, revenue authorities, police forces, immigration offices and standards bureaus have already been singled out as offices frustrating regional trade.
Mr Kingi agreed numerous regulatory reforms are yet to be implemented adding it was now up to member states to ensure speedy application of the laws for citizens to enjoy the benefits of a Common Market.
Agriculture Secretary Dr Wilson Songa has in the meantime said that the anticipated integration will bring about healthy competition as well as utilise the best there is in the region.
Dr Songa said on Tuesday that it would enhance quality of the service provision across the region where those who deliver service most efficiently stand to benefit.
“There is no turning back and we will expect free movement in the entire market. I can go and work in Kampala just as much as I would be able to work in Bujumbura. This is really good because now you can get your services from anywhere without limitation. I don’t have to remain here because I am a Kenyan, if the Rwandese have something that I can do I will go and do it,” Dr Songa said.
Speaking at the opening of a five day workshop for Africa media, Dr Songa said a regional approach was more efficient than the way the five East African countries are doing business now.
“We are going to continue ensuring that we have good regional plans. Just look at Lake Victoria, it is not a one country resource; we really have to get together as a region to see how we can effectively utilise the resource,” he said.
The East African region which comprises Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi is on Thursday expected to become a single market but a change of people’s mindset may be one of the biggest hurdles to the effective implementation of the Common Market Protocol.