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EA states urged to ease trade barriers

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 8 – East African governments have been urged to amend some of their national policies and security measures that hamper trade within the region.

EAC Director General for Customs and Trade Peter Kiguta argued that immigration laws and the erection of road blocks are some of the rules and legislations that need to be reviewed in order to break down Non Tariff Barriers (NTBs) and ensure the free flow of goods in East Africa.

"There are voluntary barriers which are imposed by partner states to frustrate trade. Police roadblocks are one example, these are easy to remove and there is no cost attached but sometimes, you eliminate them today but they keep recurring and that\’s why we need to have these national laws adjusted so that they can take the spirit of integration," he explained.

The administration of duties and taxes, roadblocks and corruption have been cited as some of the major obstacles that adversely affect the business community\’s operations and in effect their competitiveness.

Although the East African Community has been operating under a fully fledged Customs Union which involved the elimination of barriers to trade among member states, many of the bottlenecks keep resurfacing which affects traders\’ ability to take advantage of the free movement of goods.

This has a further impact on intra-regional trade which still remains low despite efforts to integrate the five member countries. Currently, intra-EAC trade stands at $3.5billion or 13 percent of the total trade within the region meaning that the region is trading more with third parties more than its neighbours.

Nevertheless, Mr Kiguta expressed confidence that the actualisation of the protocol on the East African common market from July 1 would make the adoption of such measures easier and enable the region to create conducive environment for doing business.

East African Business Council Vice Chairman Keli Kiilu however reckoned that the problem is exacerbated by the lack of communication among the sister members which makes it hard for decisions made both at the national and regional level to cascade to the implementing agents.
"At the regional level, a lot of policies have been agreed upon to be reviewed and harmonised with those the East Africa. However, depending on the bureaucracies in each state the process has been slow but we expect this to change with the advent of the common market," Mr Kiilu said.

On his part, Deputy Secretary General for Planning and Infrastructure Alloys Mutabingwa called on the private sector to come up with practical proposals that can be implemented to eliminate these barriers.

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Traders who are more affected by these obstacles are better placed to suggest solutions that can be taken to address this challenge, he said.

"We have expressed serious political commitment, we have put together task teams, we have developed mechanisms (to address with the NTBs) but the results are not commensurate to that level of determination and it is therefore the private sector that has to help us deal with whoever in the public sector is behind this problem," Mr Mutabingwa.

The officials spoke on the sidelines of a seminar organised to discuss the implications and opportunities of the common market protocol on businesses.

During the meeting, Ministry of East African Community Permanent Secretary David Nalo said Kenya had completed an audit that will pave way for the implementation of laws needed for the effective execution of the protocol.

Mr Nalo said the Kenya will now make legal amendments in about 30 areas that are required to enable the East African region operate as a single market.

"The Secretariat gave us a deadline of August 21 to put in place enabling legislation to realise the common market and every partner state is working in that direction," Mr Nalo said.

The PS also disclosed that the government is also working to ensure that it meets the EAC Secretariat\’s deadline of ensuring that all its national laws conform to those of the region before the end of the year.

The revision of these laws will among other things allow Kenyans to enjoy the rights to residence and employment in any of the five member states.

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